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MITA: Locals Need More Funds To Prevent Sewer Overflows

Friday, April 26, 2013   (0 Comments)
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The state saw at least 1.5 billion gallons of untreated sewage flow into its waterways as a result of the recent storms, and it needs to provide more funds to local governments to make the improvements needed to prevent those overflows, the Michigan Infrastructure and Transportation Association said in a release Friday.


Preliminary figures from the Department of Environmental Quality showed that only the Lansing region did not experience any sewage overflows from rain water overwhelming combined storm and sanitary sewers, the group said, and the 1.5 billion gallon estimate is expected to climb because not all the local sewer systems have reported to the state.


"We all can't help but take notice when our roads and bridges are in bad shape, and usually our aging sewer infrastructure is out of sight and out of mind," Mike Nystrom, MITA executive vice president, said in a statement. "But this month, during catastrophic flooding, more of us are becoming aware of what is lurking in Michigan's greatest natural resource after a heavy rainfall - sewage."


Mr. Nystrom praised Governor Rick Snyder for the funds he proposed for sewer separation and improvement projects, noting that such funds had been cut in some prior budgets. The $100 million Mr. Snyder proposed would come from proceeds from a 2002 bond initiative.


"There's no question there are infrastructure needs in Michigan," Brad Wurfel, spokesperson for the Department of Environmental Quality, said. "The governor put in this year's budget and last year's budget and emphasis on mobilizing funds for infrastructure upgrades around the state."


And he said many communities had to delay maintenance projects over the past several years because of falling funding.


Mr. Wurfel said it was too soon to tell at this point if any of the sewage overflows will result in sanctions to the communities.


"This week in Grand Rapids, and Kent County, it's been more a focus on public health," he said. "As soon as they get done with the emergency situation, there will be time to debrief."


That region was the hardest hit in the state as the Grand River overflowed its banks.


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