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State lawmakers get preview of lead rule

Samples of various drinking water pipes.
Rebecca Williams
Michigan Radio

Some state lawmakers got an early peek at Governor Rick Snyder’s new lead rules that are supposed to be rolled out this week.l A top state environmental official shared some details in testimony before a state House budget subcommittee.


Governor Rick Snyder called for a new rule because he says the federal lead and copper rule is confusing and contributed to the Flint water crisis. Snyder and other critics says the U.S. EPA is taking too long to update the rule.


Bryce Feighner is with the state Department of Environmental Quality. He testified before a state House budget subcommittee.


He says the new standards will call for replacing all lead waterlines in Michigan.


“If you’re really going to get the lead out, you have to physically get the lead out,” he said following the meeting. “If you can identify those big contributors to lead, like the service lines, and get ‘em out of the system, that’s going to be a huge step forward in terms of public health.”


Feigher said the plan also includes:


  • Faster action by state officials when lead levels in a water system exceed what’s allowed;
  • A citizen advisory council on lead policies;
  • Requiring local governments to compile a water infrastructure inventory, including the location of lead pipes.

Feighner said the effort to replace water lines in Flint has been slowed by an absence of data on the location of lead pipes. He said the state is recommending that Flint residents continue to use water filters, even though the city’s water meets federal standards. Fieghner said that’s because digging up old pipes can shake loose particles in household water systems that aren’t lead-free.


“And because of that, we’re still recommending residents use filters, and this is probably going to go on for three years or so,” he said. “This is not going to be a short-term process to remove all the lead service lines.”

Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987.
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