Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality announced new lead water rules Thursday that will have long-term effects on Flint but don’t allow for much short-term relief to its residents still battling an ongoing crisis.
The state has adopted the strictest rules on the amount of lead allowable in water in the U.S., with the maximum amount dropping below the federal level from 15 parts per billion to 12 in 2025, The Associated Press reported. The rules are part of a big plan to replace 500,000 lead service pipes statewide in the aftermath of contamination that led to at least a dozen deaths in the predominantly Black city of Flint.
Each community water system in the state is required to replace on average 5 percent of its lead service pipes per year over a 20-year period starting no later than 2021.
The plan — also prohibiting the partial replacement of pipes that can spike lead levels as well as allowing for more inventories of water supply lines, better lead testing methods and public education — will cost $2.5 billion over decades. The bill will be shouldered largely by water customers, the AP reported.
It is Flint’s residents who are in need of clean water now and can’t afford to pay for it. The city is still dealing with the devasting effects of the decision to switch the water supply from Lake Huron to the Flint River in 2014. City officials declared a public health emergency with lead from aging pipes leaching into the water supply that was untreated for corrosion. Officials were faced criminal charges for their misconduct and gross negligence, putting thousands of lives at risk.
Residents continue to have to rely on water filters and various organizations to bring clean water to the city after the state’s bottled water program was shut down due to budget constraints in April. The Flint chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority recently raised $20,000 to provide clean water for community members, according to a Facebook message posted Tuesday.