News Feature | December 14, 2018

Michigan Water Rules Prompt Lawsuit

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome,

Water utilities in Michigan are suing the state over the implementation of the toughest lead rules in the country.

The backdrop is that the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) moved forward this year in updating lead regulations, Michigan Radio reported.

Local utilities and communities are not thrilled about how the new rules are being implemented, so they are suing the state in the state’s Court of Claims.

They say “they support strong action against public exposure to the toxin but find the new rules arbitrary and too costly for the communities left to foot the bill for the work to be done,” the Associated Press reported.

They also state that the rules “infringe on private property rights and don’t reach problematic fixtures inside residences,” the report stated.

Under the new rules, the action level for lead would drop from 15 parts per billion to 12 ppb in 2025, according to the Associated Press.

In addition, “underground lead service lines connecting water mains to houses and other buildings would be replaced by 2040, unless a utility can show regulators it will take longer under a broader plan to repair and replace its water infrastructure,” the report stated.

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit include the Great Lakes Water Authority, Detroit Water and Sewerage Department, and Oakland County’s water resources commissioner.

“MDEQ has mandated service line replacement without any consideration, guidance, fact-finding, or solution for funding the enormous cost of this statewide infrastructure upgrade, particularly in the context of affordability, and how water supplies should fund these improvements while balancing their other public health and permit related infrastructure and legal obligations,” the lawsuit states.

Michigan’s decision to pass tougher lead rules came on the heels of the Flint lead crisis, which saw lead-contaminated water raise the blood lead levels of hundreds of children.