Michigan groups urge State House to pass water infrastructure bill

(Michigan News Connection) A bill introduced in the Michigan Legislature would allocate $2.4 billion in federal funds to repair the state’s aging water infrastructure.

It would use funds from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, as well as the U.S. bailout, to improve the state’s water supply, replace old lead water pipes and repair dams and residential sewer lines.

Tim Minotas, legislative and policy coordinator for the Michigan chapter of the Sierra Club, noted that most water infrastructure in Michigan is between 50 and 100 years old.

“We are seeing massive flooding from extreme weather events because our infrastructure cannot cope with it,” Minotas observed. “People’s water is contaminated with lead service lines, PFAS and other pollutants. We also see raw sewage pouring into our rivers, lakes and streams.

The state Senate passed the bill, and it now faces a vote in the House. Minotas described the bill as a “great first step” but said more could be done to upgrade water infrastructure. His group estimated that Michigan would need to spend more than $2 billion a year on drinking water, stormwater, and sewer infrastructure needs.

Even after Flint’s water crisis, places like Benton Harbor still struggle with lead-contaminated water, which hasn’t been a problem in nearby suburbs.

Minotas pointed out that the bill could reduce disparities.

“This is truly a reversal of the trend of disinvestment in drinking water, wastewater and stormwater infrastructure that we have seen here in Michigan for decades,” Minotas said. “This bill is a very good down payment to meet our drinking water and wastewater needs, especially in a time of climate change.”

In addition to water infrastructure, he stressed that it was important for Michigan to prioritize advancements in electric vehicles, community solar power and utility accountability, either through federal funds or by Lansing legislation.

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