Water infrastructure bills would protect our health and environment

Local governments would be given better access to funding

The Michigan Senate Environmental Quality Committee passed a bipartisan bill package in 6-0-1 vote today that would make Michigan’s water cleaner and create thousands of jobs, all without taxpayer dollars.

Over $293 million in water infrastructure grants for local governments and residents would be available through a budget appropriation recommendation by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer through her MI Clean Water Plan and bolstered by Sens. Rick Outman’s (R-Six Lakes) and Paul Wojno’s (D-Warren) Senate Bills 319 and 320.

The money comes from a 2002 ballot proposal allowing $1 billion in water infrastructure grants. The $293 million is what remains of that bond funding.

The Senate Committee heard overwhelming support for the bipartisan bills, which would move the $293 million to a fund that is more easily accessible to local governments. The bills would make it easier for local governments to apply for, receive and implement water infrastructure grants and allow access to funding for individuals seeking septic system improvements.

The $293 million would be distributed according to purpose:

  • $235 million would reduce sewer overflows and increase green infrastructure
  • $20 million would help keep raw sewage out of water
  • $35 million would help reduce septic system failures
  • $3 million would limit storm water and wastewater pollution

“The MI Clean Water Plan is a key step to ensuring cleaner water for all Michiganders,” said Charlotte Jameson, program director for legislative affairs, drinking water and energy at the Michigan Environmental Council. “The Environmental Protection Agency estimates 15 jobs are created for every $1 million invested through her MI Clean Water Plan. Its $293 million in infrastructure grants would create nearly 4,400 jobs and support thousands more, all while ensuring our communities and Michigan’s lakes, rivers and streams are better protected from raw sewage and toxic chemicals.”

The bills now head to the Senate floor for further action.

Six other organizations also praised the MI Clean Water Plan and Senate Bills 319 and 320.

"WMEAC is pleased with the decision by the Michigan Legislature to ease access for municipalities and homeowners in order to access low- and no-cost loans to address wastewater treatment systems and failing septic systems,” said Bill Wood, executive director of the West Michigan Environmental Action Council, an MEC member group. “Working in the watersheds of both the Grand and Muskegon Rivers, WMEAC acknowledges the rapid leap forward in surface water quality that can be achieved when we start to chip away at failing septic systems needing repaired or replacement."

"Governor Whitmer’s MI Clean Water Plan is a crucial step in tackling the problem of aging and outdated water and wastewater infrastructure in the state,” said Crystal Davies, vice president of policy & strategic engagement at Alliance for the Great Lakes, an MEC member group. “The Alliance for the Great Lakes urges the Michigan Legislature to favorably consider and pass Senate Bills 319 and 320 to ensure much-needed funds are made available to preserve the health of all Michiganders and protect them from manageable environmental risks."

“Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council fully supports this essential clean water infrastructure funding vital to protecting the health of all Michiganders,” said Jennifer McKay, policy director at MEC member group Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council and MEC board president. “It is imperative to ensure our surface and groundwater resources are healthy and free from contaminants such as PFAS. Antiquated and failing drinking and wastewater infrastructure must be addressed to ensure residents have safe, affordable drinking water. This funding not only protects public health but ensures the affordability of clean water, equitable investment and engagement of communities, and improving resiliency through natural infrastructure. The Legislature should boldly move forward for the benefit of Michigan’s greatest assets – our residents and our waters – and to protect the health and economic vitality of our future."

“Michigan should be a national leader in protecting our water, and the MI Clean Water Plan is a step in that direction, making our health and cleaning up the water coming from our taps a top priority,” said Nick Occhipinti, government affairs director for the Michigan League of Conservation Voters, an MEC member group. “Investment in Michigan’s aging water infrastructure is long overdue. Senate Bills 319 and 320 will create jobs here in our communities by fixing septic systems, preventing sewer overflows and investing in our water infrastructure for the future.”

“Investing in drinking and wastewater infrastructure that will clean up our water and protect residents from toxic contamination is exactly the kind of win-win policy we need right now,” said Tim Minotas, legislative and political coordinator of the Sierra Club Michigan Chapter. “While there is so much more to be done, we are happy to see the Legislature taking steps to improve water quality, provide jobs and protect public health by ensuring that more Michiganders have access to clean water.” 

“Neglected, crumbling infrastructure is leading to tainted drinking water, sewage overflows and exces­sively high utility bills, with low income individuals and people of color affected the most,” said Marc Smith, policy director with the National Wildlife Federation. “Gov. Whitmer’s plan will help secure clean drinking water protections so that all people have access to clean, safe, and affordable water.”

By Beau Brockett Jr.

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  • Beau Brockett
    published this page in News 2021-04-20 14:46:44 -0400