MTU, U.S. EPA shoring up infrastructure

HOUGHTON – Michigan Technological University joins a team of universities helping the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency better serve American communities.

In a recent EPA contest, Tech rose to the top and took over being the environmental finance center in the EPA’s Region 5 (covering Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois and Ohio) from Cleveland State University. The distinction comes with a six-year grant of up to $5.6 million.

“We thought we had all the resources and the EPA agreed,” said Tim Colling, the principal investigator on the EPA center who directs Tech’s Center for Technology and Training, part of the Department of Civil Environmental Engineering. Along with that department, the finance center boasts a multidisciplinary effort with input from various places including university entities like the Sustainable Futures Institute, School of Business and Economics and Transportation Institute.

With the first round of funding just in, the Tech center will help 23,446 mainly rural municipalities, including 35 Native American tribes, prepare to shore up aging infrastructure – like roads and water treatment plants – by sharing research-driven solutions that minimize environmental impacts.

“We’re trying to bring best practices into daily use,” Colling said, adding representatives from Tech’s finance center will travel to communities in the five-state region to advise them regarding infrastructure structures and systems including the optimal operation and maintenance of them. One of the first presentations will be a finance basics class.

“As engineers, we’re there to solve problems,” Colling said. “We get the benefits out of this research. We help these people adopt some of these cutting-edge practices. There is a risk of failing. We have to be sure what they’re doing is going to produce positive results. Helping municipalities protect the environment is critical.”