Still no public funding for Jackson to replace 11,000 lead water pipes

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JACKSON, MI – The city of Jackson has yet to receive state funding to help replace the city’s main service lines.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer approved a budget of $ 70 billion on September 29, including millions for water infrastructure. Benton Harbor, which is experiencing a water crisis due to its lead service lines, is expected to receive $ 20 million to replace its 6,000 lead service lines. The estimated cost of replacing the lines is nearly $ 30 million.

Related: Benton Harbor residents urged to use bottled water amid lead crisis

But the city of Jackson, which seeks to replace more than 11,000 lead service lines over the next 35 years at an estimated cost of $ 120 million, has yet to receive any state funding, said officials. responsible. However, he is requesting a loan of $ 3 million from the program to replace lead service lines in underprivileged communities.

“I understand Benton Harbor has had particular contamination issues,” said Mayor Derek Dobies. “Funds are available with the imminent adoption of the (federal) administration’s infrastructure plan to make more revenue available for the repair of our water, road and sewer infrastructure, including lead service lines. “

The $ 1.2 trillion infrastructure bill is currently on hold in Congress. It includes funds to mitigate PFAS contamination, improve cybersecurity and replace lead water pipes.

Jackson has nearly double the number of lead service lines to replace at Benton Harbor. But its cost to do the job is twice as much as if Benton Harbor had the same number of lines. Jackson’s high cost comes from labor, materials and the cost of repairing streets, sidewalks and lawns after the work is completed, city spokesman Aaron Dimick said.

“Replacing over 11,000 main service lines is no easy task,” said Dimick. “We’re talking about digging every street and every front yard within city limits to replace lead service lines. “

The city didn’t have a precise estimate until it began working with consulting firms Fishbeck and Baker Tilly Municipal Advisors in May, Dimick said. No formal studies have been done before to determine the true cost, he said.

Related: Jackson’s water tariffs could rise 12% per year under proposed new plan

Lead line replacements are part of the state’s lead and copper rule, enacted after the Flint water crisis. It is forcing municipalities to replace 5% of their lead service lines as of this year.

Funding issues arose for Jackson after the city lost around $ 1.1 million in revenue when Consumers Energy drilled its own well at a city power plant.

To help with the cost, the city increased water and sewer rates by 12% and 4%, respectively, each year for the next two years. He also applied for a $ 3 million state loan to help pay for lead service line replacements, but did not get it, Dimick said.

Related: City to seek $ 3 million loan to help fund replacement of lead water pipes in Jackson

Currently, the city administration is considering using the COVID-19 relief funds to replace some of the main service lines, Dobies said. No official plan has yet been proposed to city council, Dimick said.

Additionally, the city has made efforts to remove lead pipes over the past three construction seasons whenever there is a substantial water pipe or street replacement, Dimick said. So far, 338 properties in the city have received lead service line replacements, he said.

However, even with the lead pipes in place, the city still has high-quality water, Dobies said.

According to the month of April 2021 State Drinking Water Revolving Fund Project Plan, it was found that the quality of the water produced by the city’s water treatment plant is generally good. There are no known drinking water issues in the distribution network, according to the plan.

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