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Michigan’s water systems in line for $3.3 billion. Much more is needed.

lead water line
A Detroit worker replaces a lead water line in the city. Michigan has some 500,000 lead lines, and replacing them all could cost $2.5 billion. (Bridge file photo)

LANSING— The Michigan Senate this week unanimously passed a $3.3 billion supplemental spending bill that lawmakers say would help address the state’s crumbling water infrastructure.

The spending bill allocates $1 billion for the replacement of lead services lines in Michigan. It also provides $400 million to upgrade drinking water.

Sponsor

Sen. Jon Bumstead, R-Newaygo, said that this gives the state a “historic opportunity … (to) make major improvements to preserve and protect Michigan's water quality infrastructure and our natural resources.”

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The money to replace lead lines is a significant increase to the $300 million Gov. Gretchen Whitmer proposed last month.

From roads and bridges to sewers and broadband, Michigan’s infrastructure has been decaying for years, studies have found.

Replacing all of Michigan’s 500,000 lead lines alone could cost as much as $2.5 billion, the Michigan Municipal League has estimated.

A task force convened by former Gov. Rick Snyder found that Michigan would need $4 billion more per year to upgrade all its infrastructure, including $16 billion over the next 20 years for water and sewer systems.

In 2018, the American Society of Civil Engineers gave Michigan’s drinking water infrastructure a D, “in part due to the estimated $284 (million) — $563 million annual funding gap.”

The report also found that of the 2,600 dams in Michigan, two-thirds are older than the 50-year design life. Many of these dams are abandoned, and they “pose a safety hazard to downstream residents, a risk of environmental degradation, and other damage to downstream properties if the dam were to fail.”

Sponsor

Last year, heavy rains caused privately owned dams near Midland to fail, flooding the city forcing thousands of evacuations and causing $250 million in damage to 2,500 buildings. Fixing the dams would cost another $250 million to $300 million, according to estimates.

Besides the money to replace lead lines, the spending bill passed this week would address the following issues with a one-time funding:

  • $100 million to clean sites contaminated with PFAS, per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances that were used in a variety of products and are known as “forever chemics.”
  • $650 million in the form of a dam risk reduction revolving loan fund for owners to repair the dams
  • $400 million for the Great Lakes Water Authority, a southeast Michigan system that serves nearly 40 percent of residents. 
  • $235 million for clean water infrastructure grants to address sewer overflows and wastewater facilities.

The Michigan House has yet to discuss the bill. 

Michigan could also receive another $1.3 billion for water infrastructure and $1.5 billion for roads and bridges under President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better Act, which has passed the U.S. House but not the Senate.

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