By Sara Jerome
Federal environmental regulators are calling out the state of Michigan on its drinking water oversight.
The U.S. EPA officials said that "staff and funding shortages and poor data management" prevent Michigan environmental regulators from ensuring safe drinking water for state residents, according to the Associated Press.
EPA officials argue “that deficiencies in Michigan's drinking water operations aren't limited to Flint, notorious for lead contamination of its system for 18 months starting in spring 2014. Investigations primarily blamed the state Department of Environmental Quality, which failed to require anti-corrosion pipeline treatments when the city changed its water source,” the news report said.
The EPA detailed its position in an audit of Michigan drinking water oversight released in October. The audit began two years ago, shortly after the state began to acknowledge problems in Flint’s drinking water, according to Michigan Radio.
“Auditors found Michigan regulators did not follow certain provisions of the Lead and Copper Rule, which aims to reduce lead in people’s tap water. They found Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) didn’t fully enforce the rule in Flint and statewide,” Michigan Radio reported.
“MDEQ didn’t always issue violations when water systems exceeded levels of certain drinking water contaminants. They found MDEQ didn’t have a strategy to compel water systems to get back into compliance,” the report said.
The audit noted five key oversight issues that may have contributed to the Flint crisis, per MLive: A lack of corrosion control studies to support proper treatment in Flint, failure to optimize corrosion control, misinformation about the link between lead contamination and lead service lines, the invalidation of water samples, and poor communication between the city and the state.
Michigan regulators responded to the audit by noting that many of the issues were already identified in other reviews. It added that many issues had already been addressed, the report said.
To read more about how states comply with federal rules visit Water Online’s Drinking Water Regulations And Legislation Solutions Center.
Image credit: "20161004-FNS-LSC-0039," U.S. Department of Agriculture, 2016. Public Domain: https://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/mark/1.0/