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15 Michigan communities receive grants to upgrade water infrastructure

Serenity Mitchell

Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced over $7.3 million in grants to upgrade Michigan’s water infrastructure, replace lead service lines, and reduce or remove PFAS and other toxic contaminants.

The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) awarded various grants to 15 communities. This comes under Whitmer’s MI Clean Water Plan.

Michigan’s degraded water infrastructure received a D grade last year from the American Society of Civil Engineers.

"Lots of communities throughout the state have deferred maintenance on water infrastructure for a long time,” said Hugh McDiarmid, EGLE’s Communications Manager. “And it's coming back in the form of problems in the lead service lines and lead in the drinking water."

This comes as some water advocates have called for more financial help from state and federal governments.

One of the largest grants at approximately $1.1 million is a Consolidation and Contamination Risk Reduction (C2R2) grant awarded to the City of Southfield.

C2R2 grants are used to remove or reduce PFAS or other toxic contaminants or aid in consolidating water systems. As the Great Lakes News Collaborative reported, regulators are encouraging some water utilities to consolidate. This is because the excess infrastructure is expensive to maintain.

Also awarded large amounts were the City of St. Joseph at $1.2 million and Howell at $997,500 through Drinking Water Infrastructure (DWI) grants to replace aging water infrastructure.

The 12 other communities are receiving Drinking Water Asset Management (DWAM) grants with amounts ranging from $156,082 to $663,000.

According to EGLE’s Finance Division director Paul McDonald, DWAM grants are intended for communities to improve their Drinking Water Asset Management plans — meaning an inventory of their water infrastructure. Communities can use the grant to take an inventory of its lead service lines in compliance with state regulations.

After evaluating financial needs based on that, they can re-approach the state to potentially participate in the State Revolving Fund, which issues low-interest loans to communities to address water infrastructure needs.

The DWAM grant receiving communities are:

  • City of Carson City ($341,129) 
  • City of Coleman  ($174,424)
  • City of Ishpeming  ($663,000)
  • City of Montrose ($177,613) 
  • City of Port Huron ($330,649)
  • City of Warren  ($413,840)
  • Clinton Charter Township ($336,376)
  • Forsyth Township ($342,000)
  • Harrison Charter Township ($328,116)
  • Village of Bellevue ($156,082)
  • Village of Capac ($503,536)
  • Village of Three Oaks ($236,150)

“It's really essential that these, these communities understand what they need to do to get the lead service lines out of the ground and make other critical improvements to their water infrastructure,” McDiarmid said. “So in a sense, this is both an immediate and a long-term assistance for them.”

McDiarmid said, historically, Michigan’s water infrastructure hasn’t received enough attention.

“Some of these systems are really struggling to keep up with the needs of a modern water system. So we need to sort of examine that on a holistic basis, statewide, and talk about what we can do to help these communities and what they can do to kind of help make sure that we can fund the infrastructure that our residents deserve.”

John LaMacchia of the Michigan Municipal League said these investments go a long way in rehabilitating and rebuilding municipal water systems but there needs to be a focus in the long-term as well.

“This is an issue that needs to receive continuous attention,” LaMacchia said. “So not just that we're getting back to level, but also continuing to make sure that we prepare and can have resilient and sustainable systems into the future.”

Copyright 2022 Michigan Radio. To see more, visit Michigan Radio.

Sophia Kalakailo