Clean Water Michigan Study Attracts Legislative Action

Feb. 6, 2001

Clean Water Michigan’s goal of repairing the state’s aging and inadequate sewage and storm water systems is closer to being realized thanks to bills proposed by three Republican Senators.

The advisory group of nine major state health, environmental and industry groups released a 47-page study late last year which found that $5.8 billion over the next two decades will be needed to repair and replace sewage delivery and treatment systems, in addition to failing septic systems.

"Michigan’s sewer infrastructure has long been neglected," said Bill Rustem, vice president of Public Sector Consultants, the Lansing firm that prepared the study for Clean Water Michigan. "These bills represent a tremendous opportunity for Michigan to step up to the plate and deal with problems that will only get worse if we don’t take action now."

The five-bill package was proposed by Sen. Kenneth Sikkema, R-Grandville; Sen. Mike Goschka, R-Brant; and Sen. Dave Jaye, R-Washington Township. The proposed legislation includes both funding and policy initiatives to reconstruct Michigan’s aging sewer infrastructure.

"I am pleased that state Senate, under Senator Sikkema’s leadership, clearly understands the legislative role in protecting our state’s most precious natural resource," said Bob Patzer, executive director of AUC -- Michigan’s Heavy Construction Association and a member of the Clean Water Michigan advisory group. "The legislation that has been introduced goes beyond recognition and offers possible solutions to our pollution problems."

The Senate bills are as follows:

* SB 105 -- Adds $25 million a year for the next five years to the state Revolving fund for loans to local governments to correct sewer system problems. This amount would be contingent on the state receiving matching funds from the federal government.

* SB 106 -- Communities that have pro-actively addressed their sewage problems will receive higher priority for state financial assistance than they currently get.

* SB 107 -- Requires all onsite sewage disposal systems to be inspected and certified at the time a property is sold. State standards for design and siting requirements would also be established for alternate sewage disposal systems.

* SB 108 -- Requires the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to develop and implement a statewide water monitoring program to assess the effects of untreated sewage on water quality.

* SB 109 -- Places limitations on a municipality’s exposure to lawsuits so that punitive damages are not available if the municipality is complying with a DEQ-approved plan to correct a sewage system violation.

Clean Water Michigan was formed in 1989 to address the issue of combined storm and sanitary sewer overflow. At that time, the group highlighted the problem of communities discharging billions of gallons of untreated sewage and industrial wastewater each year into the state’s waterways. Appropriate legislation was passed and funding was found to provide separate sewer systems and construct retention and treatment basins.

The Clean Water Michigan advisory group includes the Michigan Association for Local Public Health, Livingston County Health Department, Michigan Townships Association, Michigan United Conservation Clubs, Michigan Association of County Drain Commissioners, Southeastern Michigan Council of Governments, Michigan Environmental Council, Michigan Municipal League, and AUC -- Michigan’s Heavy Construction Association. AUC stands for Associated Underground Contractors.

Source: Public Sector Consultants, Inc.