Municipalities don’t line up for low-interest sewer loans


Michigan has an infrastructure problem with raw sewage flowing into streams and rivers.

In the state of Michigan’s next fiscal year, approximately $ 500 million is available to repair sewer lines and upgrade treatment plants. So far, the municipalities have requested $ 200 million. This is below what is typical for this time of year. There is no doubt about the need to repair or replace the sewer infrastructure.

“The need for combined sewer overflows alone is probably the $ 1.5 billion to $ 2 billion range that remains to be achieved in the state of Michigan. So, with everything taken into account, all of our infrastructure needs, it will exceed this level, ”explains Phil Argiroff. He is Deputy Director in the Water Resources Division of the Ministry of the Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE).

Clean Water State Revolving Fund loan rates are less than 2% for a 20-year loan. The rate is just over two percent for a 30-year loan. And the principal of some of these loans will be forgiven if the project includes energy efficiency, water efficiency or green infrastructure.

For example, if a wastewater treatment plant included an anaerobic digester to turn wastewater into biogas to use for energy, the loan could be canceled. Disadvantaged communities may be eligible for repayment of the loan principal.

But it is difficult for some local officials to become passionate about the sewers. They are out of sight and out of mind. Sewer upgrades are very expensive, and it’s tempting to invest in things that residents might notice.

Argiroff argues that this is a quality of life issue. This is especially evident if you enjoy fishing or kayaking.

“When you look at the sewage treatment and the lack of raw sewage discharge into your rivers or streams to have an improved sewage treatment plant and what it can do to improve the quality of life and recreation downstream, I think these are the things that need to be focused on, ”Argiroff says.

Cities and townships have until January 31 to submit initial documents called Intent to Apply. This is the first step and will result in a meeting with EGLE staff where local officials can get more details about the loan program.

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