Michigan proposes adopting strictest lead-testing rules in country

Reuters News
Posted: Apr 15, 2016 11:07 AM

DETROIT (Reuters) - Michigan officials and water experts on Friday proposed the state adopt what would be the nation's strictest lead-testing rules in response to a water crisis in city of Flint that has fueled widespread public outrage.

A committee put in place by the state to respond to the Flint crisis recommended a lowering of the level of lead in water at which action is required by public water systems.

Any implementation would be through a combination of statutory, rule and other changes, said Ari Adler, a spokesman for Governor Rick Snyder. The potential costs, financing and timeline are still to be determined, he said.

Federal rules require action if lead levels top 15 parts per billion, but Michigan would reduce its threshold by 2020 to 10 parts per billion to align with World Health Organization standards, officials at the meeting held in Flint said.

The federal Lead and Copper Rule can only be altered nationally via federal action, according to a statement from the governor's office. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency told Congress on Wednesday that the agency would not have reforms ready until early 2017.

“The federal Lead and Copper Rule needs to be improved immediately," the governor said in a statement. "It’s dumb and dangerous and in Michigan we aren’t going to wait for the federal government to fix it anymore.”

The committee also recommended that every public water system replace all lead service lines within 10 years.

Flint was under the control of a state-appointed emergency manager when it switched the source of its tap water from Detroit's system to the Flint River in April 2014 to save money.

The city switched back last October after tests found high levels of lead in children's blood samples. The water from the river was corrosive and leached more lead from the city pipes than Detroit water did. Lead is a toxic agent that can damage the human nervous system.

On Wednesday, Michigan lawmakers extended the state of emergency in Flint for four months, enabling the city to tap more state funds and coordinate a response with other authorities.

Other recommendations by the Flint panel on Friday included annual lead testing for all schools, day care centers and other public facilities; disclosure of lead service-line status in all home sales and rental contracts; creation of water advisory councils for public systems to give residents a stronger voice; and better public notification when lead problems arise.

(Reporting by Ben Klayman; Editing by Alden Bentley)