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Cheboygan wastewater plant moves city forward as part of statewide water system upgrades

Thursday event spotlights state-of-the-art facility near Lake Huron shore

Cheboygan’s new wastewater treatment facility was lauded Thursday by local and state officials during an event marking completion of the upgraded plant – part of a statewide emphasis on providing financial and technical support to improve aging community water systems.

The Cheboygan plant upgrades replace 1970s-era technology and improve treatment processes that better protect Lake Huron, enhance public health safeguards, and reduce costs through state-assisted funding.

Cheboygan Director of Public Works Jason Karmol explains to local and state officials the workings of the wastewater treatment facility's new oxidation ditch

Cheboygan Director of Public Works Jason Karmol explains to local and state officials the workings of the wastewater treatment facility's new oxidation ditch. EGLE photo.

Funding for the $17.4 million facility was assisted 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 communities like Cheboygan in the form of grants and loans to address environmental and public health issues.

Chris Bauer, community and economic development manager with Northern Lakes Economic Alliance, noted that the plant upgrades join numerous infrastructure investments in the community.

“This is one of the biggest economic development projects we’ve seen in a while,” Bauer said.

The plant is among numerous water projects that Michigan communities can more easily fund and complete due to Governor 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The state and federal support aids communities in addressing deferred maintenance that threatens the integrity of many outdated drinking water and wastewater systems.

Since January 2019, Michigan has invested more than $4 billion to upgrade drinking water, stormwater, and wastewater facilities across the state, supporting thousands of jobs.

“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 is a 32% increase from their last assessment four years ago.

For more information on Michigan water infrastructure funding opportunities, visit the MI Clean Water Plan webpage. The MI Clean Water Plan expanded this week to include new funding opportunities that became available since the plan was launched by Governor Whitmer three years ago.

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