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New wastewater facilities in Cheboygan protect the environment and public health

Since January 2019, Michigan has invested more than $4 billion statewide to upgrade drinking water, stormwater, and wastewater infrastructure, and local communities like Cheboygan are reaping the benefits.

The new clarifier tank at the Cheboygan wastewater facility.

The new clarifier tank at the Cheboygan wastewater facility.


The city of 4,770 on the shore of Lake Huron in northern Lower Michigan is eagerly bringing new wastewater facilities online after years of coaxing a 1970s-era system into continued operation long past its useful lifespan.

Cheboygan Public Works Director Jason Karmol said the old facility relied on chemical treatments, while the new facility includes an oxidation ditch – a large circulation tank where wastewater is treated biologically by microorganisms based on the amount of oxygen and nutrients they consume.

The new facility enhances public health safeguards, better protects the Cheboygan River and Lake Huron, and reduces costs to local residents through state-assisted funding, Karmol said.

He and other local leaders hosted state officials July 13 to mark completion of the upgraded plant as part of the state’s emphasis on providing financial and technical support to improve aging community water systems. Cheboygan’s $17.4 million facility was funded through a low-interest loan with $5-million principal forgiveness through the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE). Half of EGLE’s budget is typically returned to local communities as grants and loans to address environmental and public health issues.

Cheboygan’s plant is among numerous water projects that Michigan communities can more easily fund and complete due to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s focus on water infrastructure and an influx of federal funding for system upgrades. The state and federal support aids communities in addressing deferred maintenance that threatens the integrity of many outdated drinking water and wastewater systems.

“Michigan is addressing systemic challenges in providing quality drinking water and curbing wastewater pollution statewide,” EGLE Deputy Director James Clift said. “The work going on across the state is a great start – a down payment on the critical investments necessary to ensure high-quality drinking water and wastewater management for future generations.”

Water system needs are substantial, not just in Michigan, but nationally. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates $625 billion will be needed for water infrastructure improvements nationally over the next 20 years. That’s a 32% increase from their last assessment four years ago.

Michigan recently expanded the MI Clean Water Plan to encompass additional funding streams to help communities provide clean, affordable drinking water and efficient wastewater and stormwater management. Since the MI Clean Water Plan launched in 2020, additional resources have been dedicated through state funding programs and federal resources including the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and state fiscal recovery funds from the American Rescue Plan Act. For more information on Michigan water infrastructure funding opportunities, visit the MI Clean Water Plan webpage.