Gov. Rick Snyder of Michigan signed a bill today (January 6) that requires municipal water systems to notify the public within three days of discovering that lead levels exceed 15 parts per billion, the federal action level. This is the first statewide policy in response to the water crisis in Flint, Michigan.
In the past, the Detroit Free Press reports, the law only required public notice “as soon as practical,” but no later than 30 days. This, in part, contributed to the public health emergency in Flint once residents realized they had unknowingly been drinking and giving their children lead-contaminated water. No level of lead is safe for children under the age of 5.
Michigan Rep. Sheldon Neeley had introduced the bill, House Bill 5120, in December 2015. “This law presents an opportunity for the state and the Flint community to move forward helping, healing, trusting and working together with one another to find solutions,” said Neeley in a statement on his website. “It is my hope that this bill will protect the public from unknowingly using or consuming unclean water in the future and prevent another water crisis from occurring in a Michigan community again.”
This bill is a “great start,” says Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, whose research helped bring the toxic lead levels to government attention. Giving public notice could have a “tremendous public health impact,” she wrote in an email to Colorlines. This doesn’t make the bill sufficient though.
“Unfortunately these changes are secondary to getting the lead out and working toward the public health priority of zero lead exposure in water, soil, consumer and industrial products and in our air,” Hanna-Attisha wrote. ”We need to make a long-term public policy commitment to do this for our kids. The current rules are not enough to protect our kids.”