(Michigan News Connection) A bill before the Michigan Legislature will provide $2.4 billion in federal funding for repairs to the state’s aging water infrastructure.
It would use funds from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and the American Rescue Plan to improve the state’s water supply, replace old lead water mains, and repair levees and sewers in residential areas.
Tim Minotas, legislative and policy coordinator for the Michigan chapter of the Sierra Club, noted that most of Michigan’s water infrastructure is between 50 and 100 years old.
“We’re seeing massive flooding from extreme weather events because our infrastructure can’t handle it,” Minotas noted. “People’s water is being contaminated by lead supply lines, PFAS and other pollutants. We also see raw sewage being dumped into our rivers, lakes and streams.”
The state Senate passed the bill and it is now up for a vote in the House of Representatives. Minotas described the bill as a “great first step” but said more could be done to bring water infrastructure up to speed. His group estimated that Michigan should spend more than $2 billion a year on drinking water, stormwater, and sewage infrastructure needs.
Even after Flint’s water crisis, places like Benton Harbor still face lead-contaminated water, which hasn’t been a problem in neighboring suburbs.
Minotas pointed out that the bill could narrow the disparities.
“This is truly a reversal of the trend of disinvestment in drinking water, wastewater and stormwater infrastructure that we’ve seen here in Michigan for decades,” Minotas argued. “This bill is a really good down payment to meet our drinking and sanitation needs, especially in times of climate change.”
In addition to water infrastructure, he emphasized that it is important for Michigan to prioritize advances in electric vehicles, community solar and utility stewardship, either through federal funding or Lansing legislation.