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E-M:/ MI Infrastructure and Transportation Association Press Release

Enviro-Mich message from Cyndi Roper <croper@cleanwater.org>


January 26, 2005

Mike Nystrom, Vice President of Government and Public Relations
Michigan Infrastructure and Transportation Association
(517) 347-8336

MITA Leads Diverse Committee to Protect Environment by Improving Sewers

Lansing, Mich. The Michigan Infrastructure and Transportation Association (MITA) met recently with a diverse advisory committee that will encourage Michigan communities to protect the environment by replacing or repairing their aging sewer systems through the use of low-interest loans from the state’s revolving fund.

In 2002, Michigan voters approved a $1 billion bond program to repair and replace municipal sewer systems. Voters approved a maximum of $100 million that could be issued per year; thus a total of $200 million could have been issued to date. Since 2002, however, only $1.5 million of the revolving loan fund has been issued.

“It is our goal to encourage municipalities to take advantage of these low-interest loans,” said Mike Nystrom, MITA vice president of government and public relations, “ in order to help lessen the environmental impact of aging sewer systems on the state’s water quality and to create good-paying jobs.”

Cyndi Roper, Great Lakes policy director for Clean Water Action, and a member of the MITA advisory committee, said that the need for municipalities to repair their sewer systems is readily apparent with over 50 billion gallons of untreated discharges occurring on an annual basis into Michigan’s lakes, rivers and streams. The need for these improvements will continue to grow over time as new communities add to existing facilities, Roper said.

Other members of the advisory committee are: Joe Fivas, Michigan Municipal League; Sam Washington, Michigan United Conservation Clubs; Doug Roberts, Jr., Michigan Chamber of Commerce; Gil White, Michigan Association of Realtors; Dick Hinshon, Hinshon Environmental Consulting; and Tom Frasier, Michigan Townships Association. Public Sector Consultants of Lansing is serving as staff for the committee.

The committee identified potential obstacles that municipalities may face regarding the state revolving fund. Regardless of funding support, communities may not recognize the options available to them, or may view the application process as too arduous. They may also perceive the costs of an average sewer system to be extremely high, particularly in light of the current revenue sharing discussions that are going on in Lansing and throughout the state. In addition, public support for sewer improvements may be difficult in some cases to obtain, regardless of the potential negative environmental impacts and the increased costs that result from delaying replacement or repair. Thus, the group also discussed the possible need for incentives and/or disincentives to encourage communities to update their sewer systems.

“A key focus of our committee will be to educate municipalities about the benefits of the state revolving fund loan,” Nystrom said, “and at the same time to streamline the process of obtaining a loan to make it as easy and cost-effective as possible for municipalities to make necessary sewer improvements.”

MITA is a statewide construction trade association formed in 2005 through the merger of Associated Underground Contractors and the Michigan Road Builders Association. The membership consists of nearly 800 Michigan companies representing numerous construction disciplines such as road and bridge, sewer and water, utility, railroad, excavation and specialty construction.

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