Serving Gogebic, Iron and Ontonagon Counties

Bessemer to increase water fee again in 2023


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BessemerBessemer residents can expect to see another increase on their water bill in 2023. The increase is to help cover city expenses to replace lead service lines on residential properties, as mandated by the state to protect public health. The cost isn’t able to be included in the city’s 2021 water main project because the lines are on private property.

In order to fund the line replacements, the city has applied for a 20-year loan from the state Drinking Water State Revolving Fund to pay for the project, which will cost $705,000, according to a press release from the Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy. As a disadvantaged community, Bessemer has qualified for $63,450 in loan forgiveness, and an additional $28,200 in loan forgiveness because the project involves lead. This still leaves a sum of $613,350 dollars that the city will owe. As a result, the city will be increasing its readiness-to-serve fee by approximately $4.23.

“We had to have (the increase) planned on paper, but we are hoping that we can find a grant. But in order for USDA to approve anything, we had to have a planned increase,” said mayor Adam Zak.

Zak said the council could rescind the increase if the city did secure grant funding.

The removal of the lead lines will remove a potential source of contamination from the drinking water, according to the release, and will “allow city residents to have clean safe drinking water for years to come.”

The project to replace the lines is set to begin next spring and will be completed in the summer of 2023. It will occur concurrently with the planned 2021 project to replace large water mains through the United States Department of Agriculture and the Michigan Department of Transportation resurfacing project.

The original water lines in the city of Bessemer were built in the early to mid 20th century. Some updates have been done, but there is still a network of cast iron and lead oakum pipes alongside the modern iron piping. In 2018, the state law was changed to mandate that all lead lines or galvanized lines that have or had lead goose-necks be replaced at the city’s expense.

Bessemer discovered in 2017 that approximately 15% of service lines have lead goose-necks. This project will replace the lines previously detected, as well as an additional 15-20% that the city anticipates finding during the 2021 water main project.

Some short-term adverse impacts, according to the state press release, include noise, dust, exhaust fumes, removal of ground-cover, and increased erosion potential. The city will also take steps to mitigate any potential impact on potential protected species during the work, according to the release. This includes not cutting any trees from April 1-Oct. 14 as the city is within the migration range of the Northern Long-eared bats, according to the release, and could encounter the bats in the work area.

The improved water quality will outweigh the short-term impacts of the project, according to the press release, therefore EGLE has made a preliminary decision that there will be no significant environment impact on the community to replace these lines and is seeking public comment on its decision. Comments can be sent to Kelly Green at EGLE, Constitution Hall, PO Box 30457 Lansing, MI 48909.