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Michigan's congressional delegation backs bill strengthening EPA notification requirements

Capitol Building, Washington D.C.
Captiol Building, Washington D.C.

A bill backed by all members of Michigan's congressional delegation aims to strengthen the Environmental Protection Agency's reporting requirements in the event of drinking water emergencies. 

A press release from Representatives Dan Kildee, D - Flint, and Fred Upton, R - St. Joseph, said the new bill, called the "Safe Drinking Water Act Improved Compliance Awareness Act," would require the EPA to establish better lines of communication between state and federal agencies, as well as the public. 

The bill requires the EPA to alert the public of unsafe water if the operators of the water system fail to do so within a day of learning about the problem. 

In an interview Thursday, Kildee said the goal of the bill is to prevent another Flint situation where officials are aware of the contamination but do not notify anyone. 

"The EPA questioned, internally, whether they had the authority to go public with the information they had," he said. "This would be a law that says they have to go public."

Upton called the bill a "major step forward" and said he doubts there will be anyone in the House not supporting the measure. He added that it's crucial to ensure health information of this nature not be kept private. 

"It's not acceptable for anyone to sit on that information," he said in an interview. "We can't let this happen anywhere else."

Kildee said moving forward, lawmakers including himself will be reviewing all the other failures in the Flint crisis in an attempt to plug other administrative gaps. 

"We're just beginning our review of all the aspects of this and as we get closer to solutions on some of these much of it will deal with transparency, but I think there are other questions about whether or not [the EPA has] adequate tools," he said. 

He added that he will be part of a review of the agency's lead and copper rule as to whether it's strict enough to keep people healthy. 

Upton said a vote is expected on the bill by the middle of next week.