The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said Wednesday it will loan $18 million to a Downriver wastewater authority for infrastructure improvements.

The Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act loan is the first administered to Michigan under the Biden administration. It will pay for about half of a $36.4 million upgrade to the biosolids handling system of the Downriver Utility Wastewater Authority in Wyandotte, which serves 350,000 users in 13 communities including Ecorse and River Rouge and is considered the second largest wastewater system in Michigan.

The low-interest loan will save the authority about $5 million in interest and the overall project will save the communities about $1.8 million in operating costs annually.

“EPA is working to build back better by investing in water infrastructure to ensure that all people — no matter how much money they have in their pockets, the color of their skin, or their zip code — have access to clean and safe water,” EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan said in a statement.

State and federal officials said the loan expressed a commitment to clean, affordable water resources in Michigan while announcing the loan in a virtual press conference Wednesday.

“We know that water is a human right and it needs to be treated as such,” said U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Dearborn. She added that “too many communities in the down river area have had to confront immense industrial pollution.”

The project at the Wayne County wastewater facility and the accompanying loan are an example of the benefits of “bold investment in infrastructure,” Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said.

“This loan will increase access to clean water and help bolster our economy by creating new jobs,” Whitmer said in a statement.


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