LANSING — State Reps Stephanie Chang (D-Detroit), Abdullah Hammoud (D-Dearborn) Sheldon Neeley (D-Flint), Phil Phelps (D-Flushing) and Adam Zemke (D-Ann Arbor) today brought attention to their legislation regarding water while recognizing World Water Day. World Water Day dates back to the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, when an international observance for water was recommended. The United Nations General Assembly responded by designating March 22, 2003, as the first World Water Day, and it has been held annually since then.
“Clean, affordable water is a priority for me and my residents. My colleagues and I are committed to the success of legislation that will address water quality, affordability, and accessibility,” said Chang. “Many of these bills were introduced last session, and are policies that were called for by Republicans and Democrats serving on the Joint Select Committee on the Flint Public Health Water Emergency. We look forward to working with our colleagues on both sides of the aisle to move these bills through the House and Senate chambers and to Gov. Rick Snyder to be signed into law.”
The bills introduced so far address:
- Transparency (Chang): Increases transparency concerning water rates and shut-offs.
- Accessibility of water, regulation of water rates (Hammoud): Creates the “Accessible and Affordable Water Act” to requires all state departments and agencies to establish water affordability criteria as appropriate. Grants the Michigan Public Service Commission the power to regulate rates, fares, fees and charges of any water or sewer authority in the state, as several other states already do.
- 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.
“Clean water is the foundation of any healthy community, and it should be equal across our state” said Hammoud. “Every state agency and department should, through all reasonable means, enact and enforce policies to ensure safe and affordable water for residents. Additionally, the state should have the authority and oversight to protect residents by making sure that they’re being billed accurately and appropriately. My bills seek to address these common-sense issues to protect Michigan residents.”
“Flint has seen progress since a year ago on World Water Day, and I am heartened by the recent announcement of a $100 million grant from the federal Environmental Protection Agency to Flint to help replace pipes, but we still have a long way to go,” said Neeley. “We all want the same thing for every Michigan community, and that is safe drinkable water. I will continue to work with all of my colleagues to reach that goal.”
A second package of bills restores Department of Environmental Quality citizen oversight commissions for water and air quality that had once existed, but were abolished by former Gov. John Engler. Reestablishing a Water Resources Commission would add another layer of accountability leading to a quicker government response to any water crisis.
“Having a Water Resource Commission in the DEQ, which my bill would establish, will add more accountability at the state level, and the water crisis in my community has shown us that we need that extra layer of accountability,” said Phelps. “My colleagues and I have a strong package of bills that will help communities across our state. I look forward to working with my colleagues to move them through the Legislature.”
“Taking steps now to ensure clean water in our homes, schools and businesses now is important for our kids and their futures, because we know what lead poisoning does to our kids,” said Zemke. “We all want to do what is right for our children because they will be the next generation of teachers, leaders, elected officials and parents. These water bills address the issues we are facing right now, and they also will put us in good standing for the future.”