Flint water crisis, beach closings & sewage in our rivers
The Flint water crisis is known worldwide as a public health and economic disaster caused, in part, by a colossal failure to fix worn out infrastructure. Water systems in many Michigan communities are just as old.
Due to water contaminated with E. coli and other pollutants, dozens of Michigan beaches and stretches of rivers are closed to swimming and fishing for days and weeks each summer to protect public health.
Infrastructure threats to Michigan’s drinking and recreational waters
Many parts of the state’s community water systems are nearing the end of their design life, threatening clean drinking water in Michigan. The American Society of Civil Engineers of Michigan recently gave Michigan’s drinking water a “D” grade on its 2018 Report Card for Michigan’s Infrastructure.
ASCE-MI also estimates that system owners in Michigan are underfunding system improvements for Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) compliance between $284 to $563 million/year.
“Supply systems including transmission and distribution (T&D) pipelines account for most of Michigan’s built water infrastructure. Significant portions are well over 50 years old and beyond design service life, difficult to inspect/maintain, and located in corridors with other utilities/roadways. Within Detroit CWS alone, approximately 80% of its T&D was installed prior to 1940. Per the 2016 Michigan Infrastructure report, between 10 and 50 percent of the treated water is lost through leakage.” (Source: American Society of Civil Engineers 2018 Report Card for Michigan’s Infrastructure).
Many beach and river closings, such as those involved with e. coli levels in Lake Michigan, are due to aging and antiquated wastewater and stormwater systems that fail or can’t handle capacity.
In 2017, 30 beaches on Michigan inland lakes and rivers reported 49 “exceedances” (excessive E. coli levels) that resulted in 26 closures and/or advisories.
(Source: Michigan DEQ “Michigan Beach Monitoring Year 2017 Annual Report,” February 2018)