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Washington — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Tuesday said it has green-lighted Michigan’s plans to forgive $20.7 million in past water infrastructure loans owed by the City of Flint to the state.

A package of legislation approved by Congress in December included a measure giving states the flexibility to use the federally funded Drinking Water Revolving Loan program to forgive past loans owed to a state. The EPA has jurisdiction over the revolving loan program.

“Forgiving Flint’s past debt will better protect public health and reduce the costs associated with maintaining the city’s water system over time,” EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said in a statement.

“Forgiving the city’s debt will ensure that Flint will not need to resume payments on the loan, allowing progress toward updating Flint’s water system to continue.”

Flint Mayor Karen Weaver welcomed the move.

“We appreciate the EPA’s continued assistance as we work to recover from the water crisis,” Weaver said in a statement. “We have come a long way, but there is still much more work that needs to be done. With help and support like this from federal, state as well as local entities, Flint will indeed bounce back.”

Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Flint Township, had pushed for loan forgiveness for Flint for two years, first writing to then-EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy on the issue in March 2015, saying the loan payments have kept the city from making other necessary investments in its water infrastructure.

“The state of Michigan forgiving Flint’s outstanding loans will free up money to make much-needed investments as the city recovers from the ongoing water crisis,” Kildee said in a statement.

“Ensuring Flint gets the resources it needs to recover from this man-made crisis continues to be one of my top priorities.”

mburke@detroitnews.com

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