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State lawmaker from Flint says delay in strengthening lead rules “beyond ridiculous"

Filling a sample bottle.
Courtesy photo
Virginia Tech

This week, a state lawmaker from Flint says he’ll introduce legislation that would make Michigan’s regulations on lead in drinking water some of the strictest in the U.S.

Governor Rick Snyder firstrolled out the proposal in April in reaction to the Flint water crisis. He said federal rules on the amount of lead allowed in drinking water were “dumb and dangerous” because they’re not based on protecting public health.

The federal “action level” is 15 parts per billion. Snyder proposed making it 10 parts per billion.

But so far nothing’s been done to lower the allowable limit of lead in tap water, and last week Snyder told Michigan Radio he does not expect lawmakers to make any changes this year because of the election.

State Sen. Jim Ananich, D-Flint, says the delay is disappointing.

“Especially with what’s going on in my community; it’s beyond ridiculous. And I think it’s an issue that we should be able to come together it should be bipartisan about protecting people,” Ananich said.

Ananich says he’ll introduce a bill this week that would gradually lower Michigan’s limit on lead in water.

“These things that I’m talking about are common sense things that need to happen and I’d like to see us get them done,” he said.

Ananich says his bill would force water systems in Michigan to reduce lead in water to a standard of 10 parts per billion by the end of 2017 and less than five parts per billion by 2021. Five parts per billion is the same level allowed in bottled water.

Snyder spokesman Ari Adler said the governor is willing to work with anyone who is willing to work with him to lower the standard.

Ananich admits it could take a serious investment for public water systems to meet a lower standard. But he says the state and federal government should help water systems cover the costs to meet the tougher standard, should it be adopted.

“We’re either going to wait longer and have to replace the system all across the country or we can start investing now and make sure that we’re protecting people,” Ananich said. “That’s what the public wants us to do.”

Lindsey Smith is a Peabody Award-winning journalist currently leading the station's Amplify Team. She previously served as Michigan Public's Morning News Editor, Investigative Reporter and West Michigan Reporter.
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