by Scott McClallen
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is trying to use federal funds from a recently-signed infrastructure package to accelerate the replacement of lead service lines.
Whitmer signed an executive directive (ED) for the Legislature to work with the State Budget Office to spend federal funds to accelerate the replacement of lead service lines (LSL).
“Right now, we have an incredible opportunity to put Michiganders first by using the funds we will be getting under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act to ensure every community has safe drinking water,” Whitmer said in a statement. “With this executive directive, we are accelerating the timeline to replace 100% of lead service lines in Michigan, prioritizing communities that have been disproportionately impacted, fostering enhanced collaboration across departments, and ensuring that the projects are built by Michigan workers and businesses. I look forward to working with the legislature to invest these dollars and get the job done.”
The underground lead-infested water problems hit national headlines in October as some Michigan residents accused the state of not doing enough to protect vulnerable residents.
For Benton Harbor, the problem is personal. For three years, the majority-Black Michigan city’s lead levels in the drinking water have exceeded state and federal action standards. But the state and federal governments haven’t acted urgently until the past month or so following a Sept. 9 petition asking the Environmental Protection Agency for help.
Jeremy Garza, of the Michigan Pipe Trades Association, welcomed the directive.
“The number one responsibility of a plumber is to protect the health of the nation and help every family and community access safe drinking water,” Garza said in a statement. “The licensed plumbers of the United Association stand ready to help with safe and proper installation and replacement of Michigan’s potable water lines. We will work together to get the job done.”
The ED directs state departments to take a range of actions to ensure that lead service lines are replaced ahead of schedule, including:
- Prioritizing lead service line replacement for communities that have been disproportionately burdened by lead in their drinking water and communities that require financial or technical assistance to utilize water infrastructure dollars.
- Helping local communities build infrastructure efficiently, using the “dig once” principle to complete work on water, high-speed internet, the road, and other utilities simultaneously wherever possible.
- Finding opportunities to layer in flooding resiliency to water infrastructure, incorporating lessons learned from this summer’s historic floods.
- Working with community colleges, trade associations, and unions to train new craftsmen that will build infrastructure, creating good-paying jobs.
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Scott McClallen is a staff writer covering Michigan and Minnesota for The Center Square. A graduate of Hillsdale College, his work has appeared on Forbes.com and FEE.org. Previously, he worked as a financial analyst at Pepsi.
Photo “Service Water Lines” by Governor Gretchen Whitmer.