Dems offer bill to expand EPA lead warnings in response to Flint

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Top Democrats from Michigan's congressional delegation have introduced a bill to expand lead poisoning notifications in the wake of the water crisis in Flint, Mich.

The bill, from Sens. Debbie StabenowDebbie StabenowGOP puts shutdown squeeze play on Dems Senate panel approves pension rescue for coal miners Week ahead: Flint aid fight shifts to House MORE and Gary Peters and Rep. Dan Kildee, all Democrats, would direct the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to notify the public and local health departments if the amount of lead found in public water systems warrants action, if the state hasn't already sent a notification.

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Lead levels in Flint spiked after the city switched its drinking water source from the Detroit municipal supply to a local river. 

The EPA knew about the threat for elevated lead levels related to the change, and officials told the state to take precautions, but the agency wasn’t required to take any additional action. The state never warned local residents about potential health risks related to the water.

The Flint situation led to the resignation of the EPA’s regional head last week. The agency said it “worked within the framework of the law to repeatedly and urgently communicate the steps the state needed to take to properly treat its water,” but “those necessary actions were not taken as quickly as they should have been.”

In a Wednesday statement, the Michigan Democrats said the EPA should have the power to publicly notify local residents and regulators if drinking water poses a health risk due to lead. 

"When the people of Flint raised concerns about the safety of their water, the EPA tested that water and found that it was dangerous to drink," Stabenow said. 

"The State of Michigan chose to criticize and ignore those findings, which has caused irreversible harm to potentially a generation of children. This bill will give the EPA clear legal authority to provide notice to the public when a state is not taking action on a public health safety crisis."