Bill Package Addresses Water Safety, Water Provider Transparency

Democratic Reps Announce Water Quality, Testing Bills
Thursday, January 26, 2017

LANSING — State Reps. Stephanie Chang (D-Detroit), Sheldon Neeley (D-Flint), Phil Phelps (D-Flushing) and Adam Zemke (D-Ann Arbor) introduced today the first group of bills in a bipartisan package that will ensure access to clean, safe and affordable water in Michigan. The bills were outlined as necessary steps to take in the report issued in October 2016 by the Joint Select Committee on the Flint Water Emergency chaired by state Sen. Jim Stamas (R-Midland).

 “Clean, affordable water is our right, and this year, we are renewing our fight to enact legislation needed to address the many water crises that people in Flint, Detroit, Highland Park, and many other Michigan communities, are struggling with,” said Chang. “These are bills that we introduced in the last legislative session and bills that were called for by Republicans and Democrats in the Joint Select Committee on the Flint Water Emergency. We hope to see quick action on these and other bills we will introduce in the coming weeks to ensure that every Michigander has access to clean and affordable water.”

“Last year, we saw one bill — my House Bill 5120 requiring quick notification to communities if their water is compromised by lead — passed and signed into law, but that is only the first step in what we need do for Flint and all Michigan communities,” said Neeley. “We need to do more to protect our water supply and make sure no matter if you are at home, at work, at school or at a daycare center, when you turn on the tap you get clean, drinkable water.”

          The bills introduced today address:

  • Transparency (Chang): Increases transparency concerning water rates and shut-offs.
  • Water testing in child care centers (Neeley): Establishes water testing and interventions for child care centers.
  • Lead and Copper Rule testing/notification (Phelps): Establishes criteria for the water testing method and action level for engagement of the department as it relates to the Lead and Copper Rule.
  • Water Testing in Schools (Zemke): Requires local water providers to conduct tests for lead and other contaminants in public schools’ drinking water at least once every three years.

Since January 2013, more than 53,000 Detroit residents have had their water and sewer service terminated, with only a fraction of that number having been since reconnected. In April 2014, Flint switched from the Detroit water system to its own system that drew water from the Flint River. Residents were forced to use unclean water, and then clearly unsafe water when a local doctor’s study found high lead levels in Flint children. Eventually, local and state officials admitted that they failed to ensure that the water was properly treated before it came into residents’ homes. Legislation was approved and signed into law by Gov. Rick Snyder last session that, among other things, paid for Flint’s reconnection to the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) until the city’s new system that will draw water from Lake Huron comes online. However, the administration is currently fighting a court order to deliver water to the homes of people the state cannot verify as having a working water filter.

“To prevent what happened in Flint from occurring in other Michigan communities, we need better testing methods and we need to test public water once every year, so that another city doesn’t go more than a year drinking lead-contaminated water,” said Phelps. “These are the first of many bills that will be introduced over the coming weeks to address the problems with our water testing requirements that led to the problems in Flint. I look forward to working with my colleagues to get these bills before the governor for his signature.”

 “Think of how many times you drank from a school water fountain when you were a student, and now think about the fact that Michigan currently does not require testing of school water,” said Zemke. “We have to require regular testing of water at schools instead of just relying on testing that happens when someone complains. We all agree on the need to better protect our kids from lead-tainted water, so it’s time to get back to work and pass legislation to do that.”