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The goal of a statewide construction association to obtain funding to repair Michigan's aging and inadequate sewage and storm water systems is closer to being realized thanks to a bill package that passed the state House April 25.
Associated Underground Contractors (AUC), Michigan's Heavy Construction Association, has been lobbying for House Bill 4625 since it was proposed last year. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Bruce Patterson, R-Canton, will place a $1 billion sewer bond ballot proposal before voters this fall if it passes the Senate. Along with supporting legislation (House Bill 5892 and 5893), Rep. Patterson's bill has been under consideration by the House for the past two months.
"The bill package now goes to the Senate, where Sen. Kenneth Sikkema, R-Grandville, has promised to give the package his immediate attention," said Bob Patzer, executive director of AUC, which represents over 500 heavy construction firms across the state, including contractors who build water and sewer systems. "We congratulate the legislators on their foresight to help protect the environment with this important package of bills."
The $1 billion bond proposal, if approved by voters, would provide funding for communities to repair and replace sewage delivery/treatment systems and failing septic systems that have been a major source of pollution to the Great Lakes.
AUC formed a coalition in 1989 to address the issue of combined storm and sanitary sewer overflow. At that time, the group's report 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 that allowed funding for separate sewer systems and construction of retention and treatment basins.
In 2000 the coalition issued another report, again funded by AUC, which found that billions of dollars would be needed over the next two decades to repair and replace sewage delivery and treatment systems, in addition to failing septic systems. The report resulted in legislation that passed and answered some of the funding problems, but did not go far enough. Other environmental and business groups have since published additional reports that have addressed the problem, but no solutions have been developed.
"House Bill 4625 is the first major piece of legislation to come along that will provide the amount of long-term, stable funding that is necessary for communities to address their individual sewer infrastructure problems," Patzer said, "and thereby prevent discharges of untreated or improperly treated sewage into our state's waterways."