City Approves Clean Water Revolving Fund Project Plan
Posted at 12:26 p.m. on Wednesday, June 29, 2022
NILES — The City of Niles took action this week to ensure the quality of its drinking water.
Niles City Council has approved a resolution adopting the Drinking Water Revolving Fund Project plan.
According to Director of Utilities Jeff Dunlap, the goal of the project plan is to gain funding approval from the DWRF for the replacement of aging water infrastructure, specifically lead water services, water meters waterworks and watermains located in the town of Niles. The city’s water infrastructure is deteriorating and deteriorating faster than it can be replaced. Municipalities across the state are mandated, at no direct cost to the owner, to replace all lead and galvanized service lines within 20 years.
The proposed projects would protect public health and improve water quality and reliability.
The State of Michigan offers low-interest, return-of-capital loans through the Drinking Water Revolving Fund. The Environmental Protection Agency provides grants to the 50 plus states in Puerto Rico to capitalize the state’s DWRF loan programs. States contribute an additional 20% to match federal grants.
As the money is repaid into the state’s revolving loan fund, the state makes new loans to other recipients. These recycled repayments of loan principal and interest income allow the state’s DWSRF to “turn over” over time.
The city is seeking $3 million in funding from the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy for proposed projects this fiscal year. The estimated cost to complete all proposed projects is $26.3 million. The estimated cost for a typical residential user of the associated $3 million DWRF loans is $1.50 per month. Any grants given to the city under the DWRF program would reduce the estimated cost.
Council member John DiCostanzo said that while the DWRF fund is considered unfunded, townspeople will essentially fund the project for years to come.
“It’s funded by city taxpayers who are forced to pay for replacement lead pipes, even if they don’t have any,” he said. “They are required by the state to make these repairs, which may not even fully mitigate all the lead that may be in a homeowner’s water, because there are other sources of lead in a household. than lead-galvanized pipes.”
He added that the city treated the water to coat the pipe coatings to prevent lead from entering the system and that replacing the pipes would not prevent lead from entering the water system through other means.
“I don’t think we would want to stop (treating water) because there are other sources of lead in ecosystems,” he said. “We’re spending millions and millions of dollars across the state and we may not be solving the problem, but we have to do this presentation so we can take advantage of the state’s money, because we had to. in any event.”
Council member Gretchen Bertsche asked if any municipalities had drinking water projects funded by another entity, with Flint and Benton Harbor being the only two in the state.
“So here at Niles, we have to put it on the taxpayer,” she said.