Downriver Legislators Address Community Water Issues

Representatives spoke with GLWA official about citizen concerns
Thursday, January 19, 2017

LANSING — State Reps. Darrin Camilleri (D-Brownstown Township), Cara Clemente (D-Lincoln Park), Erika Geiss (D-Taylor) and Frank Liberati (D-Allen Park) want to communicate with their residents further information regarding drinking water issues many communities have experienced in the past several days. The lawmakers participated in a conference call with Cheryl Porter, chief operating officer for water and field services at the Great Lakes Water Authority, so they could learn more about what caused the issues and what steps are being taken.

“We know that folks are very concerned about the unusual taste and smell people across several Downriver communities have reported, especially as the Flint water crisis remains unresolved,” Camilleri said. “The health and safety of our constituents is our top priority, which is why we’ve been working diligently to find out everything we can about this situation.”

Porter told the legislators that the Allen Park water treatment facility experienced an increase in turbidity, which is a measure of particulate matter in the water. GLWA officials believe the turbidity may have resulted from regular cleaning of part of the processing plant and caused a sulfurous odor and taste. Personnel at the facility added powdered activated carbon to the water to address the issue, which they say has reduced customer complaints. During this time, additional testing for metals, bacteria and other contaminants took place.

“We are glad to receive this additional information about the drinking water issue that we can pass on to our constituents,” Clemente said. “It’s natural that people would doubt the credibility of officials who say their water is safe in the wake of Flint’s crisis, so in addition to ensuring people and animals are safe, everyone involved must be transparent about what happened and what’s being done to correct it.”

Porter also told the representatives that new procedures would be put in place to prevent a similar issue from happening again, including more frequent testing of the water. The GLWA is awaiting results from further testing to try to pinpoint the cause of the turbidity, and Porter said the authority will issue a report in the coming days that will contain the findings. In the meantime, the GLWA released a statement on its website, which can be found here.

“While it’s good to know that the GLWA is taking steps to address this issue and prevent it in the future, my colleagues and I still have concerns about the transparency of the entire process,” Geiss said. “We believe that folks deserve more information about what kind of testing is taking place, and they deserve to know what’s happening as soon as possible.”

Legislators raised several issues with Porter, including more details about an exact timeline of events, what is an acceptable level of various contaminants, what prompts additional testing in the water processing facility and more. They said they will continue working with GLWA officials, local government leaders and residents to fully address the situation and prevent it from happening again.

“When people are told that their water is safe but it still smells or tastes bad, that’s when they distrust their government and think that what happened in Flint is happening to them,” Liberati said. “We want to make sure that when there’s a water problem, not only can we fix it quickly and make sure folks are safe, but that we can give them accurate information they can trust. My colleagues and I will continue working toward a better set of procedures so that if we encounter another situation like this — and I sincerely hope we don’t — we can respond in a more timely, more effective manner.”

The legislators are planning an informational meeting, which will take place in the Downriver area in the near future, to further discuss the issues surrounding the water situation. More information on the event is forthcoming.