Turn to the nation's most objective and informative daily environmental news resource to learn how the United States and key players around the world are responding to the environmental...
By Alex Ebert
Michigan will impose the country’s strictest standards for lead levels in drinking water, requiring public utilities to replace all lead service lines.
The state’s action comes about three years after the contamination crisis in Flint became national news.
The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality issued the new rule June 14, dropping the state’s allowed lead level from 15 parts per billion to 12 parts per billion by 2025. It also will require utilities to pay for lead service line replacement at all homes in Michigan within the next 20 years. At least 5 percent of pipes must be replaced annually. That would cost an estimated $2.5 billion, according to the Michigan Municipal League.
“There is no safe level of lead in drinking water, so despite some troubling loopholes, these rules set an example other states and the Environmental Protection Agency could follow to address an issue plaguing water systems across the country,” Cyndi Roper, Michigan senior policy advocate for the Natural Resources Defense Council, said in a June 14 statement. “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.”
The EPA has repeatedly delayed issuing federal standards on lead in drinking water, forcing Michigan to set its own requirements, Gov. Rick Snyder (R) said in a June 14 statement.
The service line replacements will begin in 2021. Public water systems that nearly meet the state’s “action level” for lead will have to replace 7 percent of their lead service lines annually and make public notifications to all customers about the lead levels.
The rule also mostly prohibits replacing old service lines with lead replacements, except in emergencies.
There are an estimated 500,000 lead services lines in Michigan, the municipal league said. Each costs about $5,000 to replace.
While public water systems support changing the public portion of lead service lines, the law also requires they replace the private portion of a service line—the part that goes from the local line to a user’s house—free of charge. Local governments wonder where they will come up with up the legal authority and $2.5 billion needed.
“We can either follow the Michigan Constitution and violate the rule, or violate the Constitution and follow the rule,” John LaMacchia, legislative associate with the Michigan Municipal League, told Bloomberg Environment June 14. “That is an awful position for communities to be involved in and will inevitably lead to litigation.”
The Catch-22, LaMacchia said, exists because the Michigan Constitution prohibits local governments from imposing taxes without citizen approval and requires some benefit to the fee-payer. State law also forbids using government funds for private benefit.
That means the local government paying to replace lead service lines on a resident’s private property could be sued by other residents who refuse to pay for it and say it’s an illegal tax. In recent years at least four settlements were struck between water providers and residents on similar unconstitutional-tax issues.
Without more funding, the new rule also could divert resources from other repairs.
“By putting all of the resources necessary to do this over a 20-year schedule it might actually jeopardize public health because we can’t be investing in water main replacements or other parts of the system,” he said.
All Bloomberg BNA treatises are available on standing order, which ensures you will always receive the most current edition of the book or supplement of the title you have ordered from Bloomberg BNA’s book division. As soon as a new supplement or edition is published (usually annually) for a title you’ve previously purchased and requested to be placed on standing order, we’ll ship it to you to review for 30 days without any obligation. During this period, you can either (a) honor the invoice and receive a 5% discount (in addition to any other discounts you may qualify for) off the then-current price of the update, plus shipping and handling or (b) return the book(s), in which case, your invoice will be cancelled upon receipt of the book(s). Call us for a prepaid UPS label for your return. It’s as simple and easy as that. Most importantly, standing orders mean you will never have to worry about the timeliness of the information you’re relying on. And, you may discontinue standing orders at any time by contacting us at 1.800.960.1220 or by sending an email to email@example.com.
Put me on standing order at a 5% discount off list price of all future updates, in addition to any other discounts I may quality for. (Returnable within 30 days.)
Notify me when updates are available (No standing order will be created).
This Bloomberg BNA report is available on standing order, which ensures you will all receive the latest edition. This report is updated annually and we will send you the latest edition once it has been published. By signing up for standing order you will never have to worry about the timeliness of the information you need. And, you may discontinue standing orders at any time by contacting us at 1.800.372.1033, option 5, or by sending us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Put me on standing order
Notify me when new releases are available (no standing order will be created)