Could Michigan create the nation's toughest lead drinking water standard?

Apr 15, 2016

Michigan would have the toughest lead testing standard in the nation under a sweeping proposal unveiled today in Flint, where the drinking water is still contaminated with lead and residents remain dependent on bottled water donations.

To make sure other Michigan cities don’t suffer the same fate, Gov. Rick Snyder and a team of experts have unveiled a plan to tighten water testing regulations and lower the threshold for action.   

The proposal calls for lowering Michigan’s lead action level standard to 10 parts per billion by 2020. The current federal action level standard is 15 parts per billion.

The plan also calls for removing all lead service lines in Michigan in 10 years. 

Gov. Snyder calls the current federal lead standard "dumb and dangerous." He says he doesn’t want Michigan to wait until the federal rule is reviewed, which is not scheduled to happen until next year. 

The governor’s cabinet director Mike Zimmer helped draft the proposal. He defends giving local water systems 10 years to remove all lead service lines. Zimmer says it will take time just to identify where all the lead service lines are.

Zimmer adds the proposal prioritizes removal of lead service lines "based on vulnerable populations, high blood levels (and) high test results."

Flint Mayor Karen Weaver sat next to the governor as the proposal was outlined. She says if this had been done in the past, her city would not be in the situation it is now.

"I'm really sorry that Flint is the example from which all this is coming from," Weaver told reporters after the meeting. 

The cost to implement the proposal is not clear. Neither is it clear if the Michigan Legislature will approve it.