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Water's safe, say leaders of Muskegon Co. communities that switched supply | News

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Water's safe, say leaders of Muskegon Co. communities that switched supply
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MUSKEGON COUNTY, Mich. (WZZM) --  Flint isn't the only city in the state to recently switch the source of its water supply.  Last spring, Fruitport Charter Township and the city of Norton Shores disconnected from the water filtration plant in Muskegon Heights and started getting water from the city of Muskegon.

Fruitport Charter Township's Director of Public Utilities Matthew Farrar looks back at that decision and smiles.  It's a smile nearly as large as the one painted on his community's unique, bright yellow water tower.  "You have to be precise, because these things can't not work out," said Farrar.  "It has worked out. We have saved a tremendous amount of money."

Nine months ago, Fruitport Charter Township and the City of Norton Shores made the switch. The project added three miles of new water lines, built pump stations, and a new water tower. The decision ended long-running agreements for both communities to buy water from the city of Muskegon Heights.

"The changeover was essentially seamless," said Jerry Bartoszek, Norton Shores Department of Public Works Director.  Bartoszek says on April 15th everything worked out just as planned.  Both communities spent more than two years designing and building the connection to the Muskegon Water Filtration Plant on Beach Street near Pere Marquette Park.

The decision to switch had to do with the price of the water, not the quality of the water. Norton Shores and Fruitport Charter Township claim the price Muskegon Height charged was too high and unpredictable. The agreement with the city of Muskegon calls for the two communities to pay a rate that reflects the actual cost of service.  "And at the end of each year, audits are done, and if we were overcharged we are reimbursed, and if we were undercharged we pay them," said Farrar.

The water is just as clean as the water Muskegon Heights was providing.  A recent Department of Environmental Quality test for lead on the Muskegon system does not even show trace amounts of lead. According to Farrar, "the lowest they can detect is three parts per billion and there were no hits on that."

Both managers look back at the hard work to switch, and say they are glad their communities did.

One unresolved issue associated with the communities leaving Muskegon Heights has to do with a final bill the two communities owe Muskegon Heights.  Fruitport Charter Township's supervisor says a check to cover the amount was sent to Muskegon Heights several month ago, but it has not been cashed by the city.  And at this time it's uncertain if the dispute will be resolved in or out of court.


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