Sep 20, 2018

Jackson, Mich., Petitions State to Reconsider New Lead Pipe Rules

The city joins Detroit and Oakland County in their request for revised lead in drinking water rules

Michigan town opposes new lead drinking water rules
Michigan town opposes new lead drinking water rules

The Jackson, Mich., City Council voted unanimously to ask the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality to reconsider new lead and copper rules, including lowering the lead action level and requiring public water systems to replace all lead service lines. While the council does not oppose tougher lead standards, they argue the expense is too much for cities to cover and instead should be funded by the state.

“Ultimately, it comes down to our ability to pay for it,” said Jackson Mayor Derek Dobies. “If the state government is not going to fund infrastructure, that’s going to fall onto the citizens, and that would be a substantial increase in water rates.”

The recent state changes, adopted earlier this summer, require the lead action level to lower from 15 ppb to 12 ppb and require public water systems to replace all lead service lines by changing 5% of lines every year for 20 years, staring in 2021. Additionally, the new rules require a second sample collection at sites with lead service lines and prohibited partial replacement of lead service lines, as reported by MLive.

Jackson City Manager Patrick Burtch estimated the cost for meeting the new rules would range between $50 million to $63 million. Burtch estimated that in order to handle the expense, water rates would increase by nearly 50% for Jackson residents.

“The real shame of the new rule is, that in most Michigan communities–and Jackson–the vast majority of lead poisoning cases is not the result of the city’s water, which always passes all the tests,” said Jackson City Attorney Bethany Sith. “It’s mostly the result of lead-based paint. So this very expensive remedy that the MDEQ crafted will not help that at all.”

In addition to Jackson, Detroit and Oakland County have asked the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality to reconsider the rules.

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