Environmental group wants state to use federal stimulus money to clean tainted water | Michigan Radio
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Environmental group wants state to use federal stimulus money to clean tainted water

May 24, 2021

Toilet paper and water from failed septic systems pour into a tributary of one of Michigan's rivers. (file photo)
Credit Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

There are a lot of ideas about how the State of Michigan should spend federal dollars from the American Rescue Plan. An environmental group thinks one of the top priorities is cleaning up water.

Aging septic systems, sewer systems that overflow into rivers, and lead pipes connecting water mains to homes are some of the concerns. The Michigan League of Conservation Voters has a list of priorities it wants to see the state tackle with the federal windfall of billions of dollars.

“With those incoming funds, we’re really realizing the opportunity to invest in our drinking water, put people back to work, and we’re doing it by capitalizing on what’s already in front of us and meeting the moment,” said Hallie Fox, the group’s Government Affairs Manager.

The American Society of Civil Engineers recently gave Michigan at D+ grade for its aging infrastructure problems. While the state is working on fixing roads and bridges, dealing with water emergencies has been the priority.

Finding money to replace lead pipes in Flint and helping municipalities deal with PFAS contamination has cost the state. Wastewater treatment plants and failing septic systems are a concern, but not the top priority at the moment.

“The connection between ensuring that we have up to date upgraded wastewater infrastructure is a means to protect our drinking water. And I think that message really resonates with the people of Michigan, whether they’re Democrats or Republicans,” Fox said.

The Michigan League of Conservation Voters also wants the state to use the federal windfall to fix aging dams, install water filters in schools affected by lead contamination, and clean up the more than 24,000 contaminated sites across the state.

The environmental group's priorities will likely compete with schools, economic development groups, and others for the surplus funds.