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$2M in grants for 7 Michigan communities including Muskegon Hts. address lead, other water quality issues

The city of Muskegon Heights received a $615,900 state grant to develop a strategic plan to remove lead pipes and connections from the water system.

MUSKEGON HEIGHTS, Mich. — The city of Muskegon Heights is receiving $615,900 to develop a plan to remove lead service lines and lead connections over the next 20 years.

The money is included in the more than $2 million in grants awarded recently under the MI Clean Water plan.

The grants will help communities complete and asset management plan and draft strategies to comply with Michigan’s Lead and Copper Rule.

"We know that they're there, and we want to replace them before they deteriorate," said Muskegon Heights City Manager Troy Bell. 

Bell believes there are more than 3,500 lead service lines in the community. That number is partly due to the number of older homes in Muskegon Heights.

The city had requested a $1 million grant from the state to develop a plan to systematically remove the lead from the water system. The $615,900 will hire an engineering firm to begin a complete assessment of the water system.

"The drinking water asset management grant that we received is going to be key and critical to our ability to address that," Bell said. "This effectively provides us the funding to be able to do the study and the research to be able to have the information to be strategic in the way that we approach that. Strategy is important because every dollar counts."

A state mandate puts communities like Muskegon Heights on the clock. All lead elements must be removed over the next two decades.

"Unfortunately it's an unfunded mandate," Bell said.

That means Muskegon Heights, like most cities around the state, will need help from the state and the federal government.

When the work begins, Bell hopes the city can replace around 180 lead service lines per year.

"Right now the current price for replacing a line is about $6,000 and that represents about a $1.2 million for our community," he said.

The annual expenses would be too much for the city to cover without additional grants. Money from the state's Drinking Water Revolving Fund will likely be needed once the work begins. However, that may result in higher water bills for residents.

The Muskegon City Council will hold a special meeting Monday, Nov. 15 at 5:30 p.m. at City Hall to discuss water rates.

Other Michigan communities receiving Drinking Water Asset Management (DWAM) grants in October include:

  • City of Pinconning — $219,910
  • City of Hudson — $296,024
  • City of Ferndale — $399,700
  • City of Muskegon Heights — $615,900
  • Charter Township of Royal Oak — $329,780
  • City of Battle Creek — $155,014
  • Tilden Township— $108,200

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