89.1 WEMU

1st Friday Focus On The Environment: The Lead And Copper Rule

Mar 2, 2018

The State of Michigan is in the process of revising its Lead and Copper rule.  The decisions made could impact whether we see another situation like the Flint Water Crisis occur in Michigan.  What should, and could, happen as the public comment period winds down, is the topic of conversation on this month's edition of WEMU's 1st Friday Focus on the Environment. 

Lisa Wozniak, executive director of the Michigan League of Conservatrion

Lisa Wozniak serves alongside David Fair as co-host of 89.1 WEMU's 1st Friday Focus on the Environment. On the 1st Friday of each month, Lisa joins David and they welcome expert guests to discuss the vital environmental topics of the day. 

Evan Pratt, Washtenaw County Water Resources Commissioner
Credit Washtenaw County / www.ewashtenaw.org

This month's guest is Evan Pratt, Washtenaw County Water Resources Commissioner. Evan was named to Governor Snyder's 21st Century Infrastructure Commission and  is a public works expert. 

RESOURCES:  (as provided by the Michigan League of Conservation Voters) 




●       What is the Lead and Copper Rule? And Why? A Brief Summary

●       Link to the Draft Lead and Copper Rule

●       Expected Timeline and Key Dates

●       Core Messages

●       Ways to Get Involved

●       Background Articles

●       Stakeholder Positions

●       Lead and Copper Rule Details

●       Sample Public Comment


If you have any questions about this toolkit, contact:

Katie Parrish, katieparrish@michiganlcv.org




The drinking water crisis in Flint, MI began in 2014 and continues to be a public emergency while the city replaces lead pipes and upgrade its water system.  Despite this massive wake-up call, state decision-makers have not implemented serious measures to prevent it from happening again.  However, there is a huge opportunity right now to make your voice heard about the importance of safe drinking water.

The State of Michigan is currently considering new rules and requirements to improve aspects of our drinking water standards -- your input could help make Michigan be a national leader when it comes to providing clean water.

As part of a larger statewide effort to reduce lead exposure, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) drafted proposed changes to the Lead and Copper Provisions of the Michigan Safe Drinking Water Act.  This rule, called the Lead and Copper Rule (or LCR), is now out for public comment until March 7th.

In addition to comments submitted by email (ways to submit your comment are described in this toolkit), the DEQ and Drinking Water and Municipal Assistance Division (DWMAD) will hold a public hearing on March 1st (see below for details) to receive public comments on these proposed changes.

We need to speak up now and tell our state leaders to get lead service pipes out of the ground as soon as possible. This will require them to find all of the lead pipes and to move quickly to remove them the right way and protect residents during the replacement and for a period of time afterward.  We also need to ensure the costs of pipe replacement are affordable -- especially for low-income households.




Click on the following link to visit the Department of Environmental Quality’s web page that includes the actual draft rule as well as details about public comment opportunities: http://www.michigan.gov/deq/0,4561,7-135-3313_3675_3691-9647--,00.html




●       Draft was approved by DEQ and sent to stakeholders the week of January 29th

●       Public Comments may be submitted (by COB on March 7th ) electronically to: DEQ-LCR-Comments@michigan.gov

●       Online Public Comment Period is February 8th – March 7th

●       The Michigan League of Conservation Voters’ Grand Rapids office is hosting a public comment training on 2/19 between 4-6pm. [Note: MLCV regional coordinators are also available for personalized comment training by phone or in-person]

●       Public Hearing in Lansing on March 1st , from 5-8pm, address below:

Lansing Center, Ballrooms 5-8

333 E. Michigan Ave

Lansing, Michigan 48933



●       Safe drinking water is not a “nice to have” luxury, it is a basic necessity; it is absolutely essential that all Michiganders have access to clean, safe, affordable and accessible water.


●        Flint made headlines in 2014 and our state leaders have done virtually nothing to prevent this from happening in other communities.  If done correctly, the Lead and Copper Rule proposal could be an important step forward. As currently written, the rule could result in more lead in drinking water, in part because it allows for partial lead pipe replacement.


●       Our state’s drinking water systems and drinking water sources are in desperate need of attention.  We are starting with eliminating the dangers posed by the lead pipes that deliver drinking water to nearly half a million Michigan homes.


●       There is no “safe” level of lead in drinking water -- even at the smallest detectable levels, lead exposure is connected to long-term reductions in mental capacity, behavior and achievement particularly among children under age 5.  The American Academy of Pediatrics has called for stricter regulations, including taking action when lead is found in water in concentrations of more than 1 part per billion.


●       When water suppliers assert that their water is under the “lead action level” it does not mean that the water in our homes is safe to drink, as there is no “safe” level of lead. The lead action level is not a health-based standard -- just because a community meets the lead action level doesn’t mean the water is lead-free.


●       This is not just a Flint problem; dozens of municipal water systems would fail to meet the governor’s new standard for Lead and Copper if it were in place today--including those in Detroit, Monroe, Bay City, Benton Harbor, and Holland Township. The City of Detroit alone has at least 125,000 lead service lines in the ground.


●        This issue needs to be addressed in a way that mitigates the risk to public health with a plan to ensure low-income households can afford their  tap water.


●       If we continue to ignore these problems, Michiganders will continue to face the scary reality of “drinking” water in their homes that is not actually safe to drink. This is a big opportunity to strengthen Michigan’s drinking water standard and make sure we can trust what comes out of our tap and not rely on filtration and bottled water.




1.      Submit an online comment before the deadline of 4:59pm on March 7th

2.      Attend and/or speak at the Lansing hearing on March 1st from 5-8pm

3.      Attend the Grand Rapids Lead and Copper Rule public comment training on February 19th

4.      Write a letter to the editor and send to your local paper (sample LTEs and potential hooks are included further in this document)

5.      Spread the word to your friends on social media:


Share the Facebook Event: https://www.facebook.com/events/166176354165728/


Share on Facebook


As part of a larger statewide effort to reduce lead exposure, the Michigan DEQ drafted proposed changes to the Lead and Copper Provisions of the Michigan Safe Drinking Water Act. This rule, called the Lead and Copper Rule, is now being considered by the public and key stakeholders.


We need to speak up and urge our state leaders to focus on replacing lead service lines the right way to keep lead out of our drinking water, figure out where all the lead service lines are and where action is most urgently needed, move as quickly as possible and be certain to keep families safe during the replacement period, and ensure the costs of pipe replacement are affordable -- especially for low-income households.


Take action now: http://bit.ly/2Hncs7K


 Share on Twitter


Our state’s drinking water systems & waterways are in desperate need of attention, starting with the dangers posed by lead service lines delivering drinking water to nearly half a million #Michigan homes. #MichiganWaterCrisis


We need to speak up and urge our state leaders to focus on replacing lead service lines the right way to keep lead out of #Michigan’s drinking water: http://bit.ly/2Hncs7K #MichiganWaterCrisis





Even after Flint, lead-free water lines may be a pipe dream in Michigan Bridge Magazine -- Jan. 31, 2018 http://www.bridgemi.com/michigan-environment-watch/even-after-flint-lead-free-water-lines-may-be-pipe-dream-michigan



Read Gov. Rick Snyder’s proposal to remove lead water pipes in Michigan Bridge Magazine – Jan. 31, 2018 http://www.bridgemi.com/michigan-environment-watch/read-gov-rick-snyders-proposal-remove-lead-water-pipes-michigan



Will Michigan Lead on Getting Lead Out of Drinking Water? NRDC Expert Blog – Jan. 29, 2018 https://www.nrdc.org/experts/cyndi-roper/will-michigan-lead-getting-lead-out-drinking-water



MDEQ makes case for strengthening lead in water rules after Flint crisis Michigan Radio – Nov. 30, 2017 http://michiganradio.org/post/mdeq-makes-case-strengthening-lead-water-rules-after-flint-crisis



EPA audit reveals “significant challenges” to Michigan’s drinking water program Michigan Radio – Oct. 27, 2017 http://michiganradio.org/post/epa-audit-reveals-significant-challenges-michigans-drinking-water-program



5 things to know about the state’s new “plain English” draft fixes to “dumb and dangerous” lead rule Michigan Radio Oct. 19, 2017 http://michiganradio.org/post/5-things-know-about-states-new-plain-english-draft-fixes-dumb-and-dangerous-lead-rule  



Below is a summary of the environmental community’s technical recommendations to the State of Michigan. The Lead and Copper Rule should be paired with an “all-hands-on-deck” investment in clean and safe drinking water infrastructure as well as an approach to ensure access to affordable drinking water and provide relief to the most vulnerable populations.


1.      Replace lead service lines the right way to keep lead out of our drinking water.

○       Partial lead service line replacements are expensive, increase the amount of lead in drinking water, and do not actually address the problem because it can cause lead to be released into the water system from the construction activity. These partial replacements are happening every day across Michigan and most residents are not even told it is happening at their home. Lead service lines must be completely removed.

○       The rules must specify that only copper lines should be used to replace lead service lines. The proposed rule does prohibit the use of coating and liners in meeting lead service line requirements -- the State should maintain this provision. Galvanized steel service lines also trap lead in them which can then be re-released into the drinking water system -- we need to focus replacing these lines as well.


2.      Figure out where all the lead service lines are and where action is most urgently needed.

○       The current rule requires the development of an accurate lead service line inventory—so that water systems and the state can know for certain where these lines are, can notify residents affected, and appropriately prioritize lead service line replacement.

○       High-risk sites should be prioritized for getting an accurate inventory of lead service lines, water, sampling and testing, and scheduling replacement efforts.


3.      Move as quickly as possible and be certain to keep families safe during the replacement period.

○       Given what is known about the dangers of lead in drinking water, the trigger for the new Lead Action Level should be January 1, 2021 rather than January 1, 2024.

○       Public education efforts should include both information about the availability of filters certified to remove lead and the critical importance of proper filter maintenance.

○       Public education should clarify that “lead-free” plumbing isn’t lead free, and it is critical to ensure plumbing you use in your home is marked “lead free” and intended for potable water use.

  • Given that there is no safe level of lead exposure, there is no scientific rationale for a Household Advisory Level (HAL) for lead in drinking water other than zero. Therefore, any level of lead detected in drinking water should trigger an advisory to the household affected.

  • The rule needs to include timely requirements for communicating the risk of lead exposure to customers during and for a period of time after lead service line replacement or construction.

  • The Lead and Copper Rule must clarify that corrosion control studies must be completed before a municipality changes its source water or treatment system. Corrosion control are the treatment techniques used to prevent lead and copper from leaching from pipes into drinking water.

  • The proposed rule ties lead service line replacement schedules to corrosion control effectiveness, resulting in improved public health protection during replacements. This renewed emphasis on the improvement of ongoing corrosion control treatment is necessary  to ensure that water providers work to improve corrosion control effectiveness during the 20-year replacement period for those households that are last to see their lead service lines replaced.

  • All small and medium water systems applying corrosion control treatment should maintain treatment even after their lead levels drop below the action level.

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— David Fair is the WEMU News Director and host of Morning Edition on WEMU.  You can contact David at 734.487.3363, on twitter @DavidFairWEMU, or email him at dfair@emich.edu.