MI Groups Urge State House to Pass Water Infrastructure Bill
Tuesday, January 25, 2022
A bill before the Michigan Legislature would allocate $2.4 billion dollars in federal funds for repairs to the state's aging water infrastructure.
It would make use of funds from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, as well as the American Rescue Plan, to improve the state's water supply, replacing old lead water lines, and repairing dams and residential sewer lines.
Tim Minotas, legislative and political coordinator for the Sierra Club's Michigan Chapter, noted most of Michigan's water infrastructure is between 50 and 100 years old.
"We are seeing massive flooding from extreme weather events, because our infrastructure cannot handle it," Minotas observed. "People's water is being contaminated from lead service lines, PFAS and other pollutants. We are also seeing raw sewage discharged into our rivers, lakes and streams."
The state Senate has passed the bill, and it's now up for a House vote. Minotas described the bill as a "great first step," but said even more could be done to get water infrastructure up to par. His group estimated Michigan should be spending more than $2 billion a year on drinking water, storm-water and sewer infrastructure needs.
Even after Flint's water crisis, places like Benton Harbor, a majority-Black city in southwest Michigan, are still facing lead-contaminated water, which has not been a concern in neighboring majority-white suburbs.
Minotas pointed out the bill could make a dent in disparities.
"This is really a reversal in the trend of disinvestment in drinking water, wastewater, stormwater infrastructure that we have seen here in Michigan for decades," Minotas argued. "This bill is a really good down-payment toward addressing our drinking and wastewater needs, especially in a time of climate change."
In addition to water infrastructure, he emphasized it is important for Michigan to prioritize making progress with electric vehicles, community solar and utility accountability, either through federal funds or legislation in Lansing.
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