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Politics & Government

Detroit water system approves rate hikes

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Bills are headed up for customers of the state’s largest water system, after Detroit’s regional board of water commissioners approved rate hikes today.

Commission chair James Fausone says the system’s budget will stay about the same, but it has revenue requirements to meet — and customers have been using less water in recent, wet years.

“Because of the decreasing number of customers and the volume they buy, to get to that same dollar amount, you have to charge everybody else more,” says Fausone.

The system also lost Flint as a customer, "and that also therefore decreases the number of gallons sold,” Fausone says.

Detroit retail customers will see combined water and sewer bills go up 12.8%, though that still needs to be approved by the Detroit City Council.

Suburban customers overall will see only see a 6.4% rate hike, but exact rates vary by community.

The board also approved $132.8 million toward a planned five-year capital improvement program. Most of that money will go toward helping the system's main water treatment plan comply with federal water pollution discharge requirements.

Ongoing problems with compliance had Detroit under a federal consent decree from 1977 through 2013. The system has managed to meet federal standards for the past three years, but "we continue to spend money at the plant for upgrades and changes to systems, so we know that we can continue to stay in compliance," Fausone says.

This should be the last time Detroit’s board of water commissioners approves a system-wide budget.

The new Great Lakes Water Authority is supposed to take over suburban operations July 1, while Detroit retains control of its system within city limits.

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