Dec 13, 2018

Lawsuit Challenges Michigan's Lead in Drinking Water Rules

Communities have filed suit over Michigan’s stringent lead in drinking water rules

Michigan communities challenge state lead in drinking water rules
Michigan communities challenge state lead in drinking water rules

On Dec. 12, a Detroit, Mich., coalition filed suit against the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) over the state’s rules on lead in drinking water. While the coalition, comprised of local governments and utilities, support strong action against lead contamination, they find the state’s stringent rules arbitrary and too costly.

According to local news source MLive, the coalition argues that changes to the state’s law made in June place a significant financial burden on communities, infringe on private property rights and do not reach fixtures inside residences. The new rules in question include requirements that utilities replace all underground lead service lines by 2040 and dropping the state’s action level for lead in drinking water from 15 ppb to 12 ppb.

“MDEQ has mandated service line replacement without any consideration, guidance, fact-finding, or solution for funding the enormous cost of this statewide infrastructure upgrade, particularly in the context of affordability, and how water supplies should fund these improvements while balancing their other public health and permit related infrastructure and legal obligations,” the suit said.

The coalition includes the Great Lakes Water Authority, Detroit Water and Sewerage Department and Oakland County’s water resources commissioner. In contrast, state officials have argued that the Flint, Mich., water crisis exposed deep rooted problems, rendering changes in state laws necessary.

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) has called the lawsuit a threat to Michigan’s children, who are more vulnerable to the effects of lead in drinking water.

“This lawsuit is a full-bore attack on the health of thousands of children in Michigan who are at risk of lead poisoning,” said Cyndi Roper, senior water advocate for NRDC. “...Attacking this lead rule sets up the potential of many Flints to come and kids will continue drinking lead in their water indefinitely. Michigan officials should know better.”