Jennifer Read, 734-769-8898
Rita Loch-Caruso, 734-972-0202
The Charles Stewart Mott Foundation recently awarded the University of Michigan a grant to facilitate compliance with the new Michigan Lead and Copper Rule (MI LCR). The effort will ensure there is accurate information widely available to municipal leaders, water utilities, community groups, and engaged citizens to understand the impact of the new rule, minimize the burden of implementation, and protect public health. The team will also provide technical support to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality as it rolls out guidance and tools for implementing the new MI LCR, so that it can be more easily adopted by water utilities. Team members hail from the Graham Sustainability Institute’s Water Center, the School of Public Health, the Center for Local, State and Urban Policy in the Ford School of Public Policy, U-M Engineering, and private sector partner Safe Water Engineering.
The revised Michigan Lead and Copper Rule was proposed in January 2018 and is expected to be finalized shortly. The MI LCR is a state regulation that controls corrosion in Michigan drinking water supplies which, in turn, reduces the amount of lead and copper in the water. Among other provisions, the revised rule would require drinking water supplies to create a complete inventory of their lead service lines and replace them within twenty years, or according to the utility’s asset management plan. The rule recognizes the need to remove lead from drinking water systems in addition to managing corrosion to prevent exposure to lead in drinking water.
Failures of the corrosion control-only approach, such as seen in Washington, DC (2004) and more recently, and closer to home, in Flint in 2014, have prompted other cities in Michigan to take action. Lansing has already replaced its lead service lines, while Grand Rapids, has a similar program in place. Other states are working to advance lead service line replacement. Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Indiana have recent laws that remove barriers for public entities replacing lead service lines on private property, and Illinois is considering legislation to require lead service line replacement within 10 years.
The project will provide materials to facilitate the implementation of the MI LCR by the state, local governments and utilities. For example, the team anticipates identifying creative funding mechanisms and other feasible ways utilities can meet rule requirements. “This project is enabling us to focus on solutions to make implementation as easy as possible for utilities of all sizes and means,” said Jennifer Read, Director of the Water Center and project lead.
“In discussions of the revised rule, it is important to keep in mind that the primary objective is to protect public health,” said Rita Loch-Caruso, Professor of Public health and Director of the Michigan Lifestage Environmental Exposures and Disease Center, an NIEHS-funded center at the School of Public Health. “The project will work with stakeholders to provide current and accurate information about the public health risk of lead in water. Although lead is probably the most extensively studied environmental contaminant, we continue to learn new information about lead’s threats to human health. A recent emerging concern is that environmental lead exposure is associated with changes in our cells’ genetic regulatory mechanisms that are passed from grandmother to daughter to granddaughter."
Sarah Mills, with the Center for Local, State and Urban Policy noted, “Utilities and local governments are understandably concerned that these new rules will place additional strain on their budgets, which are already tight given State policies limiting their ability to generate revenue. Our team is committed to identifying feasible paths to lead line replacement, considering innovative strategies as well as both state- and local-level funding options."
The state Joint Committee on Administrative Rules is anticipated to address the new rule by June 12, 2018. By that time, the project team anticipates having the project underway and working to address knowledge gaps and implementation challenges.