New bill would reduce allowable lead levels in public water systems


Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Mich.)

Under new legislation introduced by U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Mich.) this month, the allowable level of lead in water would eventually drop by two-thirds, and every day care facility and school in the country would be tested annually.

Kildee’s bill would also require the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to update its Lead and Copper Rule within nine months of the law’s passage and prohibit testing methods like pre-flushing, which can mask elevated lead levels in public drinking water systems.

The current action level of 15 parts per billion (ppb) of lead in water would drop to 10 ppb by 2020 and 5 ppb by 2026 — the same level bottled water is regulated by the Food and Drug Administration.

“Due to many deficiencies in the Lead and Copper Rule, Michigan regulators were able to distort and cover up testing results that would have alerted Flint residents of issues in their drinking water,” Kildee said in a statement issued by his office.

“It has been 25 years since the Lead and Copper Rule has seen a major revision. I have worked with scientists and drinking water policy experts to align the Lead and Copper rule with modern science,” the statement says.

The EPA has been working on revising lead and copper rules and last month issued a white paper, providing examples of regulatory options the agency says are designed to improve the existing rule.
Even public health has a cost/benefit calculation.

Options include lead service line replacement, improving optimal corrosion control treatment requirements, clarifications or strengthening of tap sampling requirements, increased transparency, and public education requirements.

“The recent crisis in Flint, Michigan, has brought increased attention to the challenge of lead in drinking water systems across the country … It is critical that EPA thoughtfully revise the LCR to strengthen the rule to reduce exposure to lead in drinking water, especially for infants and children and communities bearing a disproportionate risk,” the agency’s report says in part.

Snyder has called for establishing state standards that would go above and beyond the federal rule, which he has called “dumb and dangerous.”

Every lead service line in the state would be slated for long-term replacement under a plan proposed today at a meeting of the Flint Water Interagency Coordinating Committee and backed by Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder.

Virginia Tech university professor Marc Edwards, the researcher whose work showed the extent of Flint’s problems with corrosive water and lead in 2015, said in an email to The Flint Journal that he likes many aspects of the Kildee proposal.

“Obviously, if it was in place years ago, the Flint water crisis and the water lead problems that have been revealed all around the U.S., would have been prevented,” Edwards said. “Similar legislation proposed in the aftermath of the (Washington) D.C. lead crisis in 2004 and then again in 2005, was derailed by the Centers for Disease Control, (which) falsely asserted that drinking lead contaminated water did not elevate blood lead to levels of concern.”

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