Water Decision In Voters Hands

October 16, 2002
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LANSING — A decision for cleaner water in Michigan will be in the hands of voters on Nov 5.

If passed, Proposal 2 would authorize the sale of $1 billion in state revenue bonds over the next 10 years.

Ninety percent of the money from the sale of the bonds would be used to finance low-interest loans to cities, villages, townships and counties to repair sewer systems and municipal wastewater treatment plants.

The remaining 10 percent would provide low-interest loans to help communities repair or replace failed septic tanks and drainage fields. The money also would be used to help homeowners remove house foundation drains from sanitary sewers and install sump pumps.

The Clean Water Bond, as Proposal 2 also is known on the ballot, will augment the State Revolving Fund, which was created in 1988.

Under the revolving fund, as communities repay their loans over 20 years, the money is re-loaned to other communities, thereby maximizing the number of communities that can update their sewers or wastewater plants.

Demand for loans has outstripped the supply of money, and that’s the primary reason Proposal 2 was proposed.

Although the state loans out about $200 million per year for sewer repairs, demand for loans is about $350 million per year, according to the Michigan Clean Water Committee.

Sen. George A. McManus, R-Traverse City, is concerned about sewage and septic tank overflow, or septage. “The biggest problem with clean water in Michigan is sewage overflow,” McManus said.

Traditionally, when a septic tank is emptied, the waste is then spread out on empty lands, causing a severe health issue, he said.

Using money from the loans, townships could repair drainage fields or create facilities to handle the septage problem.

“We need treatment facilities to deal with the septage problem,” McManus said.           

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