DETROIT (WWJ/AP) – It’s another big step forward in an effort to sort out southeast Michigan’s incessant water system struggle. Officials in Oakland and Macomb counties have approved joining a new regional authority to take over operations of the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department.

Oakland County commissioners Wednesday night voted in favor of joining the Great Lakes Water Authority, and Macomb County commissioners did likewise Thursday morning.

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The votes follow earlier approval by the Wayne County Commission and Detroit City Council. The authority needed approval of Detroit and one county to move forward.

Detroit’s water system serves about 700,000 city residents and 4 million people in southeastern Michigan. Under plans for the Great Lakes Water Authority, the suburbs will pay Detroit $50 million a year for 40 years. Detroit retains ownership of the system.

Under the new plan, Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties will have more of a say say in how the system is run in the suburbs.

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Coping with corruption and struggling financially, the Detroit’s water department has been steeped in controversy for many years; and DWSD stepped up service shutoffs in March to collect some of the nearly $90 million owed by residents and businesses with past-due accounts.

In July, more than a thousand protesters took to the streets to demand water service be restored for struggling Detroiters, and the United Nations criticized shutoffs in the city as a violation of international human rights. A lawsuit targeting the city called the shutoffs discriminatory against African Americans.

Plan details: BULLET POINTSSUMMARYMAP

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