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Detroit suburbs seeking to break free from the city's water fees are looking to construct a new water treatment plant, which would serve 800,000 customers in the area. Photo: Vito Palmisano

Detroit suburbs looking to breaking free from the city's current water fees face a $1.42 billion price tag, the estimated cost for a new water treatment plant to serve nearly 800,000 customers in Wayne, Oakland, and Macomb counties.

A study follows years of litigation and debate between Detroit and some of its 125 suburban customers over double-digit increases. Twenty-three communities in the three counties paid $200,000 to see whether providing their own water is even possible. Each of the three options would take three to four years to complete, and none would result in savings until at least two years afterward. They include:

  • Build a new water treatment plant costing $1.42 billion.
  • Construct a water treatment plant for only communities in Macomb and Wayne counties, which would cost $363 million and treat one-fourth of the water treated in the larger plant in the first option.
  • Use the excess capacity at existing water treatment plants in Mt. Clemens, Highland Park, and Grosse Pointe Farms, which could treat an additional 20 mgd and would cost S310 million for construction and retooling the existing plants.
  • The communities will review study results and weigh their next move.

    A five-person steering committee will make recommendations to help the communities decide.

    The dispute has strained relations between Detroit and the suburbs at least since the 1980s. Last year rates increased 8.1%, and residents saw a 12% increase the year before.