SAW Grants awarded to Michigan communities

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Nearly $100 million is being allocated to support what officials are calling an important, but unglamorous issue.

The Department of Environmental Quality on Tuesday announced 115 grant recipients of money from the Stormwater, Asset Management and Wastewater, or SAW, program.

Brad Wurfel, spokesperson for the DEQ, said the money will help municipalities around the state plan for sewer system maintenance. “We don’t like to talk about sewers until they fail, in Michigan or anywhere else, I guess,” he said. “It’s just a boring, inside infrastructure story. But it’s an important one to really maintaining quality water in the state, which is something we prize.”

Wurfel said the “behind the scenes” infrastructure issues may not be glamorous, but they are critical issues that must be addressed. “We’ve got infrastructure issues around the state, and this is a real and fairly imminent threat to surface water quality,” he said. “You may have noticed in the last couple years, we’ve had more storms causing more sewer overflows, and we’ve got structural problems with local sewers around the state. A lot of local communities can’t even get to the first step of trying to plan out what their needs are going to be because it’s an expensive process. And so the grants are going to be helping to facilitate getting a look at the age of a huge sewer system in any community around the state.”

Wurfel said this is the second round of SAW grants. It brings the total number of recipients to just over 200.

He said further progress is expected toward funding the complete list of more than 500 SAW grant applicants.