Michigan enacts nation’s strictest rules on lead in drinking water

Michigan enacts nation’s strictest rules on lead in drinking water
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Michigan on Thursday began enforcing the strictest rules for lead in drinking water in the U.S. in the aftermath of dangerous amounts of lead being found in the water supply in Flint, Mich. 

The policy will eventually result in 500,000 lead service pipes statewide being replaced, according to The Associated Press

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The report notes that Michigan's lead and copper rules will drop the “action level” for lead to 12 parts per billion in 2025. The federal limit is currently 15 parts per billion. In addition, every underground lead service line that connects water mains to a house or other building will be replaced by 2040.

The plan may cost $2.5 billion, and water customers are expected to be paying the majority of the bill. 

“The federal Lead and Copper Rule simply does not do enough to protect public health,” Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) said in a statement to the AP. “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.”

The AP reports that the plan will bar partial replacement of lead service pipes unless it is for emergency repairs and will mandate inventories of the water lines and the water supply by 2020 and 2025. 

Local government and water utility companies say these regulations are a costly overreaction to the situation in Flint, a city whose water supply was contaminated after its water source was switched in 2014.

But environmental groups told the AP they are supportive of the policy. 

“These new protections can never make up for the disaster in Flint. And while they don’t solve the whole problem, they help ensure that other communities are better protected moving forward,” said Cyndi Roper, Michigan senior policy advocate at the Natural Resources Defense Council. 

In April, the city of Flint declared the water, which once carried dangerous amounts of lead, was now safe to drink.