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35 years of federal oversight ends at Detroit Water & Sewerage Department

(WXYZ) – Thirty-five years ago there was a lawsuit over pollution, and a federal judge started closely watching how The Detroit Water and Sewage Department did business. On Tuesday, a judge ruled the department is ready to operate without federal oversight.

U.S. District Judge Sean Cox says he doesn’t need to watch over the Detroit Water and Sewer Department anymore. The reason?  It is to a point where it is complying with environmental regulations.

Now, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality will keep an eye on environmental issues.

Ironically, as the Detroit Water and Sewer Department was deemed ready to operate on its own, it was dealing with a large mess in Livonia.  A Detroit Water and Sewer Department tank burst. About one million gallons of water gushed out an investigation will be done to find out what caused it.

Right now the city of Detroit owns the department that serves millions across southeastern Michigan.

The judge did not call for a regional authority to be created to run the department, as some have requested.  This would not necessarily take ownership away from Detroit. The power to create that now shifts to Detroit’s leaders and Lansing.

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing released a statement on Wednesday commending DWSD:

“Judge Cox’s action is a positive decision, effectively demonstrating that Detroit is moving away from federal oversight back to City control. I commend the men and women of DWSD and the consulting team for their tireless efforts in taking the necessary steps to improve our Water and Sewerage Department.”

Representative Kurt Heise (R-Plymouth) is hoping it will bring attention to House Bill 4009, which he introduced this year.  The bill would create a regional authority.

“We can reduce our water and sewer rates by making the system smaller, more efficient, and financially secure by putting the customers in charge,” Heise has said.

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