JACKSON, Mich. —
The city of Jackson is seeking a $3 million loan from the state to help pay to replace more than 11,000 lead service lines.
“This is what we call an unfunded mandate,” Public Information Officer Aaron Dimick said. “This is something that a higher government organization is telling us to do but not providing any funds for it. So it puts the city in a difficult situation when the state is making us do something but not providing any money. That means it is a huge financial burden on the city and unfortunately, we have to pass it down on the residents.”
According to the state Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy, water suppliers must use revenues they collect from customers to pay for lead line removal.
“There is $102 million for lead service line replacement in disadvantaged communities and an additional $37.5 million in drinking water asset management grants related to meeting the requirements of the new rule,” the department's Strategic Communications Adviser Scott Dean said.
City officials recently raised water rates by 12 percent to help generate the projected $120 million it will cost Jackson.
Yet, they believe they need more money to complete the project, which is expected to be done over the next 20 to 30 years.
Dimick says, even though they want to apply for a loan, they don’t want residents to think the city is taking on more debt.
“Because Jackson is considered a disadvantaged community because we have a high number of low-income residents that qualifies the city to have this loan essentially forgiven so then it becomes a grant. It’s through something called principal forgiveness,” Dimick said.
State officials said the mandate stems from Gov, Gretchen Whitmer’s MI Clean Water plan announced in October.
“Michigan now has the strongest protections in the United States against lead in drinking water. Under the state’s lead and copper rule, all lead service lines must be removed over the next 20 years,” Dean said.
Steps are being taken to make this project more efficient. The city has already identified more than 1,800 properties that they would use the $3 million on. Dimick said the properties have half lead lines and half copper lines. They want to keep the copper lines as it is considered safe according to the State.
“When we actually go to replace it it’s also going to be a lot easier. There’s less of a street we have to dig up, there’s less of parkway we have to disturb, there’s less of a sidewalk that we have to dig up and replace, there’s less of a front yard we have to dig up and disturb. We thought it would be really good to start with these 1,800 properties because we thought it would be easier to replace,” Dimick said.
This project will require the city to dig up each property to identify the lead service lines and then replace them. Officials say this will not affect the recent water rate increase as that is locked in through 2024.
“Long-term this will lessen the financial burden of this entire huge undertaking on the city and our residents eventually. We think it’s going to be a big boost to our lead line replacements, give us some money to use for next year so we can really get it going,” Dimick said.
The city’s commitment to this project plan would be $300,000 to cover administrative costs.
The City Council still has to vote on whether to pursue this loan.
Want to see more local news? Visit the FOX47News Website.
Stay in touch with us anytime, anywhere.
Sign up for newsletters emailed to your inbox.
Select from these options: Breaking News, Severe Weather, School Closings, Daily Headlines, and Daily Forecasts.