Michigan urges toughest lead rules in U.S. after Flint water crisis
Former Michigan State Police Inspector Ellis Stafford, left, and Jeff Seipenko, special agent for the Michigan attorney general, sit in court with arrest warrants in their hands on April 20, 2016.(Rachel Woolf / The Flint Journal)
U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., second from left, accompanied by Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., from left, Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., and Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich., discusses proposed legislation to help Flint, Mich., with its water crisis during a news conference Jan. 28, 2016, in Washington.(Alex Brandon / AP)
Flint, Mich., resident Glaydes Williamson holds up water from Flint and hair pulled from her drain, during the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing to examine the ongoing situation in Flint on Capitol Hill in Washington.(Molly Riley / AP)
Witnesses, from left, Joel Beauvais, Keith Creagh, Marc Edwards and LeeAnne Walters are sworn in on Capitol Hill on Feb. 3, 2016, in Washington prior to testifying before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing to examine the water crisis in Flint, Mich. Beauvais is acting deputy assistant administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Water. Creagh is director of Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality. Edwards is a professor of environmental and water resources engineering at Virginia Tech. Walters is a Flint resident.(Molly Riley / AP)
Flint, Mich., resident Sharon Moore walks out of the hearing room on Capitol Hill in Washington following a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing to examine the water crisis in Flint, Mich.(Molly Riley / AP)
Flint, Mich., resident Jessica Owens holds up a bottle of water from her home while attending the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing to examine the water crisis in Flint.(Molly Riley / AP)
Flint, Mich., Mayor Karen Weaver drinks from a bottle of water beside Michigan Department of Environmental Quality Director Keith Creagh as Gov. Rick Snyder fields questions from reporters about the Flint water crisis during a news conference at City Hall on Jan. 27, 2016, in Flint.(Jake May / AP)
People gather to distribute bottled water for consumption, cooking and bathing on Jan. 30, 2016, outside the Berston Field House in Flint, Mich.(Jake May, The Flint Journal-MLive.com)
Lorraine Jones pours canned water into a pot to start cooking Jan. 19, 2016, at River Park Apartments in Flint, Mich. Residents are finally getting much-needed bottled water delivered to their doorsteps for the first time as four Flint Housing Commission workers shuttled cases of water throughout the community. The city water system is contaminated with lead.(Jake May / The Flint Journal)
St. Clair Shores resident Terra Castro wipes away tears as she takes a moment to reflect on the state of emergency in Flint, Mich., while dropping off more than 500 cases of bottled water with about 20 Detroit-based volunteers on Jan. 16, 2016, at Mission of Hope in Flint. President Barack Obama has signed an emergency declaration clearing the way for federal aid to the city, which is dealing with lead-contaminated water.(Jake May / The Flint Journal)
The Rev. David Bullock holds up a bottle of water from Flint, Mich., on Jan. 14, 2016, near a police barrier to keep about 150 protesters out of the building housing the office of Gov. Rick Snyder in Lansing. The protesters asked for the governor’s resignation and arrest for his handling of Flint’s water crisis.(Jake May / The Flint Journal-MLive.com)
Sincere Smith, 2, of Flint, Mich., is one of Ariana Hawk’s three children. He is suffering from a severe skin rash that his mother believes is due to bathing in Flint’s contaminated water.(Regina H. Boone / Detroit Free Press)
Ariana Hawk, 25, is the single mother of three children under the age of 10 living in Flint, Mich., with her mother. She bathes her middle child, Sincere Smith, 2, in bottled water after he suffered serious rashes from bathing in Flint’s contaminated tap water.(Regina H. Boone / Detroit Free Press)
Water analysis test kits are set out on a table at Flint Fire Department Station No. 1 on Jan. 18, 2016, as members of the National Guard’s 125th Infantry Battalion wait to help residents.(Ryan Garza / Detroit Free Press)
Carl Huntere, 48, of Flint, Mich., walks home on Jan. 13, 2016, through the snow from the North End Soup Kitchen in Flint, where he received a case of free bottled water.(Regina H. Boone / Detroit Free Press)
Protesters walk with signs on Jan. 18, 2016, in Ann Arbor, Mich., demanding the arrest of Gov. Rick Snyder over his handling of Flint’s crisis with lead-contaminated water.(Junfu Han / The Ann Arbor News)
The Flint River flows in downtown on Jan. 17, 2016, in Flint, Mich. President Barack Obama declared a federal emergency in Michigan, which will free up federal aid to help the city with its contaminated water crisis. Amid mounting criticism, Gov. Rick Snyder had requested emergency and disaster declarations and activated the National Guard to help the American Red Cross distribute water to residents.(Bill Pugliano / Getty Images)
Flint resident Andrew Watson, back right, drops to the floor in tears as police stand guard at the doors of the City Council chambers, not allowing residents to listen to Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder speak during a news conference in Flint, Mich., on Jan. 11, 2016. Snyder pledged that officials would contact every household in Flint to check whether residents have bottled water and a filter and want to be tested for lead exposure while his embattled administration works on a long-term solution to the city’s water crisis.(Jake May / The Flint Journal)
Detroit resident Jaiden Ellis, 8, looks at stacks of free bottled water to be given to the congregation while the Rev. Jesse Jackson discusses the ongoing water crisis on Jan. 17, 2016, in Flint, Mich. The water became contaminated after Flint switched from the Detroit water system to the Flint River in a cost-cutting move.(Jake May / The Flint Journal-MLive.com)
Maintenance technicians Mike Young, front left, and Chris Sprague deliver cases of water to residents on Jan. 19, 2016, at River Park Apartments in Flint, Mich. After weeks without the distribution of clean water, residents are finally getting bottled water delivered to their doorsteps.(Jake May / The Flint Journal-MLive.com)
St. Clair Shores resident Terra Castro embraces the Rev. Bobby Jackson outside of his church, Mission of Hope, in Flint, Mich., after dropping off more than 500 cases of bottled water with about 20 Detroit-based volunteers on Jan. 16, 2016.(Jake May / The Flint Journal-MLive.com)
Flint residents Keri Webber, left, and Janice Barryman, center, shout as more than 150 protesters gathered on Jan. 14, 2016, to demonstrate against Gov. Rick Snyder in Lansing, Mich., asking for his resignation and arrest in relation to Flint’s water crisis.(Jake May / The Flint Journal-MLive.com)
Flint resident LaFonzo Williams, 19, prays amidst more than 150 Detroit and Flint, Mich., residents before heading into the Capitol in Lansing on Jan. 14, 2016, to protest against Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, asking for his resignation and arrest in relation to Flint’s water crisis.(Jake May / The Flint Journal-MLive.com)
Amando Saldana Sr., 62, of Flint, Mich., looks over a water filter given to him as members of the Genesee County sheriff’s department, the Sheriff’s Reserve and the American Red Cross distribute free water filters and purified water door-to-door to residents on the city’s north side to help them deal with the water crisis on Jan. 8, 2016.(Ryan Garza / Detroit Free Press)
A police officer helps Colette Brown who expressed gratitude after hearing that the Genesee County sheriff’s office and people sentenced to community service were handing out water filters and water to residents in Flint, Mich., on Jan. 7, 2016.(Sean Proctor / The Flint Journal-MLive.com)
Members of the American Red Cross carry out door-to-door deliveries of water on Jan. 8, 2016, to residents in Flint, Mich., who have been struggling with a crisis of lead-contaminated water.(Ryan Garza / Detroit Free Press)
Flint Mayor Karen Weaver, right, and City Administrator Natasha Henderson address questions about adding supplemental phosphates to the city’s water during a news conference, on Dec. 10, 2015, at City Hall in Flint, Mich. The city says phosphates are being added to drinking water to help alleviate the city’s crisis with lead-contaminated water.(Jake May /The Flint Journal-MLive.com)
Michigan would have the toughest lead-testing rules in the nation and require the replacement of all underground lead service pipes in the state under a sweeping plan that Gov. Rick Snyder and a team of water experts unveiled Friday in the wake of Flint’s water crisis.
Other proposals include requiring utilities to test all schools, day care centers, nursing homes and similar facilities — not just some people’s houses — and the mandatory disclosure of lead plumbing in home sales and rental contracts.
The plan was given to The Associated Press before it was presented to a committee that Snyder appointed to work on long-term fixes related to Flint’s lead-tainted water crisis. It is unclear how much the proposal will cost, and the policy workgroup purposely did not take funding into account.
The Republican governor said at Friday’s meeting in Flint that he wants a “marker in the ground,” and he expects the plan to generate legislative debate and a better accounting of cost considerations.
The federal lead standard is “dumb and dangerous,” Snyder said. The governor, who has apologized for his administration’s failures in the Flint disaster, noted that the EPA will not propose revisions until 2017, saying: “Let’s set a higher standard faster.”
The impoverished city of nearly 100,000 residents is under a monthslong state of emergency. Residents are urged to use faucet filters or bottled water until damaged pipes are effectively recoated with anti-corrosion chemicals that were not used for 18 months after Flint temporarily switched water sources to the local river in 2014 while under state financial management.
Dangerously high levels of the metal were detected in the blood of some residents, including children, for whom it can cause lower IQs and behavioral problems.
“We gathered the right group of experts to come up with a solution that we need for Michigan but that can be translated nationwide,” said Mike Zimmer, Snyder’s cabinet director and a panel member who helped devise the proposed changes with a group that includes water experts such as Virginia Tech professor Marc Edwards.
Michigan is estimated to have 460,000 lead lines running from water mains to homes and buildings in older neighborhoods, third-most in the U.S. behind only Illinois (730,000) and Ohio (650,000), according to the American Water Works Association.
Zimmer cited a recent AP analysis of EPA data that found that nearly 1,400 water systems serving 3.6 million Americans exceeded the federal lead standard at least once from January 2013 through September 2015. Just a fraction of schools and day care centers nationwide are required to check for lead because most receive their water from municipal systems that test at other locations.
A key goal is to make Michigan’s lead and copper rule “citizen-centric,” Zimmer said, by implementing more stringent and broader notification requirements, requiring public education campaigns and forming state and local advisory commissions to give the public a say in water protection.
The proposal also would require:
— Water systems to tell individual customers that their lead levels exceed the action level within two days instead of the current 30. Households with particularly high levels — 40 parts per billion or above — would receive blood testing.
— Yearly testing. Loopholes would be removed to ensure enough samples are taken and that sampling protocols are consistent.
— Larger utilities that are now above the federal lead limit to take more specific steps when analyzing how to “optimize” their corrosion control treatment to prevent lead from leaching into the water like it did in Flint.
— Each water system to fully replace old pipes within 10 years unless the state authorizes more time. Partial replacement of a line — which can occur when a utility owns a portion near the street while the rest is the homeowner’s responsibility — would be prohibited. Researchers have found that removing just part of a line can actually make lead exposure worse.
The Snyder administration is still studying which proposals it could implement single-handedly and which would need legislative approval.
Flint City Administrator Sylvester Jones, who sits on the 17-member panel, said the recommendations are “really strong.” But he asked how much a community like Flint would need to spend to be in compliance. He suggested first initiating a pilot to better understand the financial impact.
“We recognize there will be cost implications,” Zimmer said. “But again, our charge was to come up with the strongest, most effective LCR to further the national model. ... At some point you’re talking about health.”
The governor in February asked lawmakers for $25 million to replace Flint’s service pipes and an additional $165 million for statewide infrastructure improvements, at least a portion of which could upgrade lead lines elsewhere. Flint, which according to one estimate has at least 8,000 of the pipes, has replaced 33.
The city initially estimated it could cost $3,650 per pipe, but it ended up being higher in the pilot stage, spokeswoman Kristin Moore said.
Michael McDaniel, a committee member tasked with coordinating the city’s pipe replacements, advocated for a lead standard of 5 parts per billion to ensure Michigan is “cutting edge, leading the nation.”
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