Other opinions

Water deal best for Flint

Mayor Karen Weaver’s recommendation that Flint remain with the Great Lakes Water Authority rather than switching once again to a new drinking water source is the best choice for a city that needs both stability and trust in the safety of its water.

Flint had been set to switch to the new Karegnondi Water Authority’s pipeline, which will draw water from Lake Huron when it is finished.

It’s been a longtime goal of the city of 100,000 to separate from the former Detroit Water and Sewerage Department, which serves most of the rest of southeast Michigan.

Flint believed it was being overcharged by that system, and that’s why it joined many of its neighboring communities in forming the Karegnondi authority.

The switch was finally approved by a state-appointed emergency manager, with support from the city council. But Flint’s contract with the Great Lakes Water Authority ran out before the new system was ready.

A state-appointed emergency manager, with the support of the Flint City Council, decided to use the Flint River as an interim water source, and that set off the disastrous chain of events that ended with prolonged high lead levels in Flint’s drinking water.

Weaver, who had supported moving to Karegnondi, now rightly sees changing water sources again is too risky. After an arduous process, Flint’s water is approaching potability. While filters are still recommended, lead levels have dropped in most places to near or below safe levels.

The city is now at work replacing lead service lines, which were the source of the toxins that leached into the system when improperly treated Flint River water moved through them. While Karegnondi may have been a good idea at one time, Flint must stick to a strategy that is showing progress. It can’t take the chance that the new water will also react negatively to the existing pipes.

Weaver is recommending approval of a 30-year deal with Great Lakes that allows the city to remain a member of the Karegnondi authority, and provides it with $7 million a year in credits to pay off its portion of the KWA debt. Great Lakes says the pact will save Flint $1.8 million over its life.

That’s not nearly the savings Flint had hoped for in switching to Karegnondi, but the watch words here should be safety first. Karegnondi will become the backup source of water for Flint, as well as for Great Lakes. That could save the Metro Detroit system $600 million, and some of those savings will be realized by Flint customers.

Along with the council, the deal must be approved by the Flint Receivership Transition Board, a panel appointed by Gov. Rick Snyder to monitor the city’s post-emergency financial management.

The federal Environmental Protection Agency is endorsing the deal, saying it is in the best interest of public health. That seems clearly the case. Approving this deal will aid the cause of guaranteeing Flint residents safe drinking water for the long-term.

— The Detroit News

Admit to the problem

The first step is admitting you have a problem. Denial is a large part of addiction, and breaking through self-deception can be very difficult.

What’s true of people with substance use disorders can also be true of their communities. Not only is it true of ours, the same rule applies to cities and towns across our country. Our community has a heroin and opioid painkiller problem. Denying that problem helps perpetuate it. Breaking through our self-deception is difficult but necessary if we are to save the lives of our friends, family members and neighbors who have this disorder.

They are victims of an illness. Yet we treat them differently. If they were victims of some different illness, whether it was the flu or cancer, we’d offer to watch their children, bake them casseroles, plan fundraising spaghetti dinners, set up GoFundMe campaigns. If they were victims of accidents — and most heroin addicts are victims of accidents — we would do all that and more.

But opioid addicts are victims of an illness that we wrongly associate with criminality and moral and mental weakness. So instead of lifting up its victims, we kick them down. Nobody chooses to become addicted to painkillers or heroin. Nobody sees it coming, and even if they do, it is no easier to prevent than a car crash once it is in motion.

We don’t punish people for illness. We don’t judge a person who has a sprained ankle. We don’t deny him employment or curtail his insurance coverage because he slipped on an icy sidewalk and twisted his ankle. We don’t have elected leaders who promise us they can arrest and imprison our way out of our community’s sprained ankle problem.

We can begin by remembering that the person who has been taken prisoner by a substance use disorder is not the same person he was when he was clean. And we can offer him our help. We can begin that help by bringing help and treatment options out into the light. It should not be so difficult to access the too-few facilities in the Blue Water Area. Our law enforcement agencies can adopt the volunteer angels program that appears to be working well in Macomb County.

First, we must admit we have a problem.

— The Times Herald (Port Huron)

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