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Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announces $290 million to replace lead pipes, upgrade water systems in Michigan

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(CBS DETROIT) - Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) announced an expansion that will help communities replace lead pipes, upgrade water systems and support 4,350 jobs in Michigan.

The $290 million expansion to the MI Clean Water Plan utilizes existing authority from the Great Lakes Water Quality Protection Bond that was approved by voters in 2022.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's Office

The funding will help communities ensure cleaner and more affordable drinking water and water management resources for residents. 

"Every family in Michigan deserves access to safe drinking water and to know that we are protecting our lakes-both Great and small," said Governor Whitmer. "That is why I am proud that to announce that we are supporting communities across Michigan with $290 million of existing, voter-approved authorizations to keep building up water infrastructure under our MI Clean Water Plan. Since I took office, we have invested over $4 billion to upgrade drinking water, stormwater, and wastewater facilities, supporting 57,000 good-paying jobs, but we know we still have more work to do. I will work with anyone to get more shovels in the ground and build or repair critical water infrastructure. Together, let's protect access to clean drinking water, lower water bills for families and communities, and fight for our most precious natural resource."

The money will be split between the Clean Water State Revolving Fund and Drinking Water State Revolving Fund and will be made available through loans and low-interest financing. 

READ: Children of Flint water crisis making a change as environmental and health activists

The funding can be put toward water infrastructure projects such as lead service line removals, rehabilitation and upgrades to drinking water and wastewater plants, improving sewer systems and more. 

"In Fiscal Year (FY) 2024 EGLE provided historic financing and funding opportunities to communities but was still only able to fund $1.7 billion of the over $5 billion in community requests," officials said in the release. "This funding shortfall will continue in FY 2025, where the department received over $3.5 billion in project requests from communities but expects to have less than $720 million available after exhausting significant one-time federal resources."   

Most of the state's water systems are more than 50 years old, and some are nearing 100 years of service. 

In addition to providing safer and cleaner water to residents, this expansion will also bring thousands of jobs to the state. 

For every $1 million that gets invested in improving water infrastructure, 15 jobs are created, according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency. "Plumbers know that high-quality water infrastructure is critical to keeping families safe," said Price Dobernick, President of the Michigan Pipe Trades Association. "We support today's $290 million investment that will create and support good-paying, union jobs for our brothers and sisters while ensuring Michiganders have access to clean drinking water. We are grateful to Governor Whitmer for prioritizing water infrastructure—a total of $4 billion since she took office, supporting 57,000 jobs—and will keep rolling up our sleeves to fix pipes, replace sewers, and handle everything in between." 

In October 2023, Whitmer signed legislation that enacted the Clean Drinking Water Act, which requires schools and childcare centers to install water filters, construct a water management plan and conduct routine sampling of the water children are drinking. 

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