- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 12, 2014

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - More than 90 communities will share $97 million in grants and loans to fix aging or overwhelmed sewer systems, state officials announced Wednesday, saying the quality of one of Michigan’s most prized assets - water - is at risk.

The maximum $2 million per local government is intended to help undertake costly planning and engineering for major infrastructure maintenance and improvements. The money was generated under a 2002 bonding authority and designated for sewer projects under a 2012 law.

Gov. Rick Snyder has proposed using another $97 million for a second round of grants in the next fiscal year.

“We have severe weather events where our infrastructure can’t handle storm water and waste water and therefore we have raw sewage or partially treated sewage that runs into our waters, and it impacts and impairs our water qualify,” state Department of Environmental Quality told The Associated Press in a phone interview. “It’s a combination of aging infrastructure and just capacity.”

Interest in the new program is high.

When the application period opened in December, the agency received 673 applications totaling $541 million in requests. Officials used a random draw to choose recipients and did not differentiate among applicants as long as they qualified. The state will move down the list next year.

Cities, townships, counties, school districts, colleges and universities, drain commissioners and other entities applied, with eight in 10 wanting the grants or loans for asset management plans. Most communities have to put up $100,000 to get the first $1 million and $250,000 for the second $1 million.

Wyant said major rain and melting snow can run off pavement and roofs, and overflowing treatment facilities without enough capacity. Salts, oils, sewage and nutrients can harm water quality and human health, he said.

Wyant and other officials planned to formally announce the winning communities Wednesday afternoon during an event at a wastewater treatment plant in Novi.

The Snyder administration last month said his fiscal 2015 budget heralds a yearlong emphasis on water - recognizing its importance to economic development and the advantage that Michigan’s vast aquatic resources provide over competing states.

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Follow David Eggert on Twitter at https://twitter.com/DavidEggert00


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