Whitmer: MI Clean Water providing $500 million investment for state’s water infrastructure

By Mark Cavitt mcavitt@medianewsgroup.com @MarkCavitt on Twitter

A $500 million investment to rebuild Michigan’s critical drinking water and wastewater infrastructure has been announced by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

The MI Clean Water initiative will provide $207 million to improve drinking water quality and $293 million to improve the state’s wastewater infrastructure while providing direct investments for communities to address critical water infrastructure upgrades and supporting over 7,500 Michigan jobs, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Gov. Whitmer said the historic investment marks a significant step toward her goal of ensuring Michiganders have access to clean and affordable water. She’s also urging the Legislature to take “bold actions” to invest in Michigan’s infrastructure to protect the state’s water systems from toxic contamination, such as Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS). She added that investments will be done without raising taxes.

“I’m calling on the legislature to authorize the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) to use the remainder of the voter-approved 2002 Great Lakes Water Quality bond during this legislative session,” said Governor Whitmer. “Michiganders are tired of waiting for action, the time is now. We must all work together to improve the quality of the waters of our State.”

According to the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), Michigan’s 2018 infrastructure report card included a “D” for drinking water infrastructure, a “D-” for stormwater infrastructure, and a “C” for wastewater infrastructure with an overall infrastructure grade of “D+.”

Mike Nystrom, Executive Vice President of Michigan Infrastructure and Transportation Association, said the investment is a significant and positive next step toward solving the decades-old problem of woefully under-funded infrastructure in Michigan that also help improve and protect the state’s public health.

“We continue to call on Michigan voters to elect state legislators on Nov. 3 who will commit to passing a comprehensive long-term plan to fix our state’s massive unmet infrastructure needs, including our crumbling roads and bridges, our aging dams, water infrastructure, and our wastewater and stormwater systems,” he said.

MI Clean Water includes a proposal combining federal dollars for lead service line replacement in low-income communities ($102.1 million) with bonding authority for water quality protection ($290 million), one-time General Fund appropriation for drinking water infrastructure and innovation ($105 million), and asset management grants ($2.9 million) to help communities develop, update, and improve their plans for wastewater and stormwater systems resulting in a comprehensive water infrastructure investment of $500 million in Michigan’s water systems.

Drinking water investments

  • Lead Service Line Replacement in Disadvantaged Communities Program – $102 million
  • Lead and Copper – Drinking Water Asset Management Grants – $37.5 million
  • PFAS and Emerging Contaminants – Contamination and Consolidation Grants – $25 million
  • Non-Lead Drinking Water Infrastructure Grants – $35 million
  • Affordability and Planning Grants – $7.5 million

Wastewater protection investments

  • Clean Water Infrastructure Grants (eliminating sanitary sewer overflows; correcting combined sewer overflows; increasing green infrastructure) – $235 million
  • Substantial Public Health Risk Grants (removing direct and continuous discharges of raw sewage from surface or ground water) – $20 million
  • Failing Septic System Elimination Program – $35 million
  • Stormwater, Asset Management, and Wastewater Grants – $3 million

According to the report card, it’s estimated that Michigan drinking water system owners are underfunding system improvements for Safe Drinking Water Act Compliance at between $284 million and $563 million every year. When it comes to wastewater infrastructure, the EPA estimates $690 million is needed for secondary treatment and $702 million is needed for conveyance system repair and improvement needs.

Currently, Michigan lacks a systematic approach to inventorying, operating and maintaining its stormwater infrastructure, according to ASCE, who added that unless a funding source is dedicated, Michigan’s stormwater infrastructure will continue to decline.

EGLE Director Liesl Clark calls the MI Clean Water initiative an “exciting package of water protections that pulls together a wealth of resources to help ensure clean water for all Michiganders.”

“Now is the perfect time to invest state and federal dollars in a coordinated way to encourage job growth in water infrastructure jobs,” she said. “His work will ripple throughout both the economy and the systems that protect public health, strengthening both.”

Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, MSU College of Human Medicine pediatrician and professor, said Michigan is leading the nation to rebuild the critical infrastructure necessary to keep Michiganders healthy and safe.

“It is proactive investments like this that will prevent future public health crises, reduce inequities, and ensure the promise of generations of Michiganders to come,” she said.

Jim Nash, Oakland County Water Resources Commissioner, said this is a much needed initiative for communities large and small, adding “the governor and legislative supporters deserve credit for recognizing the need.”

“For too long budget cuts at the state and federal level have left local communities responsible for costs that many can’t afford,” he said. “This needs to be a first step because studies show we have a multi-billion dollar investment deficit that has to be made up if we want to have efficient and effective infrastructure for the future”

In November 2002, Michigan voters overwhelmingly approved the Great Lakes Water Quality Bond Proposal, which authorized the sale of $1 billion in bonds to improve the state’s water infrastructure.


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