Newsletter: Funding Ready for Wastewater Improvements

Michigan’s aging wastewater infrastructure – plants nearing capacity and the end of their useful life – need new equipment, even a new facelift, to meet water quality standards today and in the future. “How do I fund my wastewater project?” is a question that has municipal leaders searching for answers.

There is hope. State and federal dollars are on the way to help Michigan communities address water infrastructure needs. It may be time to replace old, fragile systems with new ones or make upgrades that boost efficiencies or address environmental hazards.

Low-interest loans, some with principal forgiveness, and, in some cases grants are available to municipalities for construction of needed water pollution control projects. Funding assistance applications for some programs are due next month. Don’t delay!

Eligible clean water projects may include the following:
Wastewater treatment plant upgrades
Combined and/or sanitary sewer overflow abatements
Collection system installation or improvements
Stormwater treatment
Non-point source pollution reduction
Green infrastructure

Funding programs for wastewater treatment facilities vary on plant size and the communities they serve. Two of Michigan’s most often used programs are the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF) and U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development (USDA RD).

Leoni Township officials decided recently that the CWSRF program, a federally funded loan program administrated by the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE), was the best option for much-needed repairs at its 3.9 MGD bio-membrane plant. The plant, which serves 13 communities in three counties, was commissioned in 2010 and in need of a major overhaul.

“Replacing these components, upgrading them and bringing them in line with current technology is just part of life cycle maintenance,” said Howard Linnabary, Leoni Township’s supervisor. “The plant has had its issues, but we’re getting the boat turned around now with the SRF funding.”

The CWSRF program allows eligible municipalities to borrow funds to plan, design and construct projects. Deadline to submit an intent to apply for the next round of funding is January 31, 2022. Qualified disadvantage communities can also apply for longer loan terms.

Leoni Township received $11.8 million in a low-interest loan of which $590,000 is eligible for principal forgiveness under the Green Project Reserve program for the improvements that included an emergency replacement of the membrane cassettes in Train No. 4, an air compressor and blower.

The progressive design-build project also includes replacing the grit classifier, influent microscreens, a flow splitter, aeration diffusers, a back pulse tank, ZeeWeed membranes, blowers, pumps, chemical feed and controls.

“We hired F&V because we needed their expertise to explore all the funding opportunities and prepare an application,” Linnabary added. “We’re not the experts and we don’t keep track of all the regulation changes like a consultant does.”

Rural communities, under 10,000 population, are also taking advantage of USDA RD programs, which offer grants and low-interest loans for wastewater improvements. The Village of Breckenridge received a $1.5 million grant and $4.9 million loan for WWTF improvements that have already bolstered the village’s industrial park and improved the quality of life.

“We would not have been able to do the improvements without USDA funding,” said Jeff Ostrander, Breckenridge’s village manager. “Today we have a vibrant industrial park, helped our neighbors to the east with treatment of their sewage and that extra income helps our sewer fund.

“Since the improvements, we’ve also gone from 23 percent of the homes for sale to there being nothing available for sale or rent.”

Breckenridge’s improvement project includes 3.8 miles of storm sewers, lagoon and pump station upgrades and standby emergency generators.

USDA RD interest rates are better than the market rates and applications are taken year-round. Payment can also be stretched out to 40 years to make it even more affordable.

If you want to brainstorm about funding your wastewater treatment plant improvements with these and other programs, call F&V’s consultants David Harvey or Gary Bartow today at 800.494.5202.

“Without the help of our consultant, we would not have gotten our USDA project funded or completed,” Ostrander said. “In a small community like ours, we wear many hats and it’s difficult to keep up with the grocery list of things and in what order with government funding.”