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Whitmer Executive Order Requires Water Reconnections Statewide, Establishes Fund To Help Communities Comply

Posted on March 29, 2020 by Dene Westbrook

Governor Whitmer issued Executive Order 2020-28 requiring the reconnection of service to residences that have had water service shut off. The order requires public water suppliers to immediately identify residences in their service area that do not currently have water service, and to make best efforts to restore service to homes where the service has been disconnected due to non-payment or damaged infrastructure. The order also includes reporting and accountability requirements.  

The order is effective for the duration of the COVID-19 emergency. It does not absolve anyone from responsibility for past-due bills. Below are the specific details of the order.

  1. A public water supply must restore water service to any occupied residence where water service has been shut off due to non-payment, so long as the public water supply does not have reason to believe that reconnection would create a risk to public health (e.g., due to cross-contamination). To facilitate the restoration of water service, a public water supply must immediately make best efforts to determine which occupied residences within their service areas do not have water service. For purposes of this order, a public water supply’s “service area” means the area for which the public water supply collects payment for water service.
  2. If a public water supply determines that any occupied residences within its service area have had water service shut off for any reason other than non-payment or that reconnection would create a risk to public health, it must make best efforts to remedy such conditions and restore water service to such occupied residences as soon as possible.
  3. As soon as possible and no later than April 12, 2020, all public water supplies that have used water shutoffs as a remedy for non-payment within the last year must report to the State Emergency Operations Center regarding access to water in their service areas. The report must include:
    1. An account of what efforts have been made to determine which occupied residences within the public water supply’s service area do not have water service.
    2. The number of occupied residences within the public water supply’s service area that do not have water service as a result of a shutoff due to non-payment.
    3. The number of occupied residences within the public water supply’s service area that do not have water service as a result of any reason other than non-payment
    4. A certification, if true, that best efforts have been exercised to determine which occupied residences within the service area do not have water service; that, to the best of the public water supply’s knowledge, no occupied residences have their water service shut off due to non-payment; that the public water supply has reconnected water service for all occupied residences that can be reconnected without creating a risk to public health; and that the public water supply has exercised best efforts to remedy the conditions that prevent reconnection due to a risk to public health.
  4. If a public water supply submits a report under section 3 of this order that does not meet all of the requirements described in section 3, then the public water supply must submit a supplemental report every 30 days until it submits a report that meets all of section 3’s requirements.
  5. Nothing in this order abrogates the obligation of a resident to pay for water, prevents a public water supply from charging any customer for water service, or reduces the amount a resident may owe to a public water supply.
  6. This order is effective immediately and continues until the termination of the state of emergency under section 3 of Executive Order 2020-4.

To assist communities in complying with the order, a $2-million fund has been established through Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE). The Water Restart Grant Program will provide funding to local communities to help reconnect homes to their water supplies.

EGLE will provide limited grants to communities based on available funds. Grants will be provided to high-risk areas. Requirements for the grants will include the following:

  • Communities must provide a preliminary spending plan, including the estimated number of homes to be reconnected and estimated average cost per home, prior to the grant being initiated.
  • If lead lines are being replaced as part of the reconnection, the entire line must be replaced.
  • EGLE will reimburse up to $5,000 for reconnection, line replacement, and restoration per home. Exceptions to the cap can be requested for homes needing more extensive work. Exceptions must be authorized by EGLE.
  • The community must assure that the plumbers conduct appropriate flushing and provide communication to residents on the importance of flushing and use of filters if needed.
  • A 25 percent local match is required.
  • Grant funds will be provided on a reimbursement basis upon receipt of appropriate supporting documentation.

Communities interested in accessing the funding should email EGLE-RestartGrants@michigan.gov.

Those reconnecting to municipal water must first thoroughly flush stagnant water pipes and clean filter screens to remove accumulations of lead and other bacteria that can accumulate in stagnant water. Step-by-step instructions on how to do so are available through this instructional video.

Information around this outbreak is changing rapidly. Additional information we receive on this order and grant funding through EGLE will be made available through the  League’s COVID-19 resource page at mml.org/coronavirus. Any questions on the order can be submitted here.

John LaMacchia is the Assistant Director of State and Federal Affairs for the League handling transportation, infrastructure, energy and environment issues. He can be reached at jlamacchia@mml.org or 517-908-0303.

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