Three Rivers may hike water rates to cover lead line replacement

St. Joseph County

THREE RIVERS, Mich. (WOOD) — The mayor of Three Rivers says water rates could increase 40% to 60% to cover the cost of replacing lead service lines in the city.

The state has mandated communities replace these lines over the next 20 years. Mayor Tom Lowry said that while the city supports doing it, it’s going to be pricey.

“If indeed it stays unfunded for 20 years, our little town of 7,500 is looking at $10 million that we have to get out of the citizens just for water,” Lowry said.

There is some money available to identify lead lines but Lowry says it falls short of covering the full cost.

“The state is giving grants to everybody to help do that inventory and then you start to process so there’s a grant for that but nothing else that we have located,” Lowry said.

The city plans to wait a year to start replacing the lines, according to Lowry. He said the hope is more state or federal funding will be available at that time.

“We’re always planning ahead and so this is part of that process. We recognize we have to follow the law. We absolutely want to provide safe drinking water but something has got to be done,” Lowry said.

The owner of the newly opened GG’s Cookies in downtown Three Rivers, Regina Mains, says upgrading lead service lines is critical even if that makes water more expensive. 

“I would rather pay it then have what happened to Flint happen here in Three Rivers,” Lowry said.

Mains said price increases could be especially challenging for people on a fixed income and where water is included in rent, like at her business, which would likely mean paying more. She rents her store space from Lowry.

“We’ve only, just a little over a month, been here and so that would really put a damper on things,” Mains said.

The city commission pans to discuss water rates at its Tuesday night meeting.

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