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Whitmer order requires water services to be reconnected

Public water supplies need to make their best efforts to restore service where it has been disconnected due to an overdue bill or damaged infrastructure.

LANSING, Mich. — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed an executive order Saturday to require water services to be reconnected for residences that had it shut off. The order will last the duration of the COVID-19 emergency. 

A $2 million grant will also help communities comply with the order. The Associated Press reports that the city of Detroit had about 127,500 total service cutoffs from 2014 to the end of 2019.

“This is a critical step both for the health of families living without a reliable water source, and for slowing the spread of the coronavirus,” said Whitmer in a statement. “We continue to work to provide all Michiganders – regardless of their geography or income level – the tools they need to keep themselves and their communities protected.”  

Amid a stay at home order and consistent advice to wash your hands as much as possible, a lack of running water is an even bigger hurdle for Michigan families. 

“Michiganders need clean water in their homes now more than ever to protect their health and slow the spread of COVID-19 by washing their hands,” said Robert Gordon, director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. “MDHHS is pleased to work to help connect families to critical services and remove barriers to good health practices.”  

The order requires public water supplies to make their best efforts to restore service to homes where it has been disconnected because of an overdue bill or damaged infrastructure.

The order does not erase past-due bills. 

Grants from the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy will go toward high-risk areas. Requirements for the grants include: 

  • Communities must provide a preliminary spending plan, including the estimated number of homes to be reconnected and estimated average cost per home, prior to the grant being initiated. 
  • If lead lines are being replaced as part of the reconnection, the entire line must be replaced. 
  • EGLE will reimburse up to $5,000 for reconnection, line replacement, and restoration per home. Exceptions to the cap can be requested for homes needing more extensive work. Exceptions must be authorized by EGLE. 
  • The community must assure that the plumbers conduct appropriate flushing and provide communication to residents on the importance of flushing and use of filters if needed.   
  • A 25 percent local match is required. 
  • Grant funds will be provided on a reimbursement basis upon receipt of appropriate supporting documentation. 

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