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Michigan working to lower lead levels in water

Strengthened state standards for the federal Lead and Copper Rule will better safeguard Michigan residents from lead in their drinking water, Gov. Rick Snyder announced Thursday after the rules were filed, making the new standards part of official state statute.

“The federal Lead and Copper Rule simply does not do enough to protect public health,” Snyder said. “As a state, we could no longer afford to wait on needed changes at the federal level, so Michigan has stepped up to give our residents a smarter, safer rule – one that better safeguards water systems in all communities. With these more stringent standards, Michigan will serve as a role model to other states looking to improve their own public health protections.”

Reforms to the state’s standards were made through administrative rules proposed by Gov. Snyder and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. The rules went through a yearlong administrative process, widely supported by public health experts and environmental advocacy groups.

“Michigan Department of Environmental Quality staff worked closely with stakeholder groups to develop this new state Lead and Copper Rule that positions Michigan as a leader in implementing stricter standards that are protective of public health and safety. Further, this new rule helps ensure a balance between protecting public health by minimizing exposure to lead and copper in drinking water, while also providing water supplies with flexibility to implement a schedule for the removal of lead service lines.” C. Heidi Grether, Director of MDEQ

“By strengthening our Lead and Copper Rule to be the strictest in the nation, Gov. Snyder has put Michigan in a leadership position for safeguarding human health. Michigan Environmental Council celebrates this important advance that will protect our children and families and future generations from lead exposure in drinking water.” Chris Kolb, President and CEO, Michigan Environmental Council

“The new Michigan Lead and Copper Rule is the most stringent in the world when applied to cities with lead pipes, yet it strikes a reasonable balance between cost and benefit. It provides the EPA with a good exemplar to follow, if they ever begin to wage their long-promised war on lead in water.” Dr. Marc Edwards, Charles P. Lunsford Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Virginia Tech University

The updated rules will:

  • Reduce the Lead Action Level from 15 parts per billion to 12 ppb in 2025
  • Require all public water systems to replace lead service lines.
  • Beginning in 2021, service lines must begin to be replaced at a rate averaging 5 percent per year, not to exceed 20 years total for replacement of all service lines, unless an alternate schedule in an asset management plan is approved by the DEQ.
  • If 90 percent of a public water system’s tests exceed the action level, they must replace seven percent of their lead service lines per year as well as make public notifications to all customers on the system.
  • Partial lead service line replacement is prohibited due to the potential for elevated lead levels and the risk to public health.
  • Require a second sample collection at sites served by lead service lines.
  • Following the first draw 1-liter sample at residential and non-residential sites, a second sample will be required immediately after three more liters of water have been drawn through the tap.
  • Create a statewide water system advisory council to assist the DEQ in developing lead public awareness campaign materials and advise the department on efforts to educate the public about lead in drinking water.
  • The council must consist of one representative from each of the following: community water supply, non-community water supply, administrative branch of a local government agency, medical professional, professor of public health at a state university, environmental or public health advocacy group, public health educator, and two members of the public.
  • Additionally, water systems that serve 50,000 or more customers will be required to create local advisory councils.
  • Require all public water systems to conduct asset inventory, including a preliminary inventory that must be completed by January 1, 2020, and a complete distribution system inventory and verification methodology by January 1, 2025.
  • The new rules are designed to be flexible for communities that have asset management plans.

Photo by Kaboompics.com from Pexels

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