When Sewer System Fails, MI House Wants to Hand You the Cleanup Bill
Many Michigan families know what it’s like to wake up after a thunderstorm to find their homes flooded with rainwater and raw sewage. The cleanup is costly and time consuming, and because it’s almost always the result of outdated city infrastructure, homeowners can’t prevent it.
A new bill in the Michigan House leaves home and business owners 100% responsible for covering flood cleanup costs, even when an outdated sewage and stormwater system is clearly at fault. The bill would let the government off the hook for sewage overflows and ruined basements if it rains more than 1.7 inches in one hour, or 3.3 inches in a continuous 24-hour period. These are common rain events that are only becoming more frequent in our warming climate.
Michigan’s water infrastructure is old. Like many Great Lakes communities, cities across the state continue to live with 50-150 year old systems unable to keep up with population growth and modern water use. Past years have seen a high number of heavy rain events that have caused widespread flooding and property damage in counties and cities across the state, most recently in Midland, Bay, Saginaw and Isabella Counties. Last year, the city of Detroit was brought to a near standstill as rain pummeled the Metro area, flooding freeways and homes.
Outdated storm, wastewater, and septic systems threaten the rivers, lakes, and groundwater we source for drinking, and leaking distribution pipes can cost municipalities nearly half the drinking water they treat and send to homes—increasing water bills for consumers. Instead of finding solutions for Michigan’s aging water infrastructure, the state House is voting on whether to push costs off on homeowners.
A 2016 state infrastructure analysis estimated that Michigan requires an additional $500 million annually to maintain and renovate wastewater infrastructure. We have to do better. Businesses that rely directly on clean water infrastructure and services for daily operations account for 21% of Michigan jobs, contributing $60 billion in wages to the state’s economy.
The Michigan House is set to move quickly on the bill, with a vote expected tomorrow September 27, 2017.