2018-10-11 / Front Page

City Council unhappy with portions of new MDEQ regulations

By Ben Gagnon
810-452-2661 • bgagnon@mihomepaper.com

FLUSHING — The City of Flushing has joined a coalition of local governments and water utilities in an effort to petition against portions of Michigan’s new lead and copper regulations.

The new Lead and Copper Rule, which went into effect in mid-June, enacts the toughest protections in the United States against lead levels in drinking water. Authorized by the Michigan Safe Drinking Water Act, the rule is intended to drop the state’s action level for lead from 15 parts per billion to 12 parts per billion by 2025.

Another of the rule’s major goals is to replace over 500,000 lead service lines statewide, such as underground lines connecting water mains to houses.

According to Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) guidelines, community water suppliers and municipalities are now responsible for replacing lead service lines from mains to houses and other privately owned buildings.

But Flushing City Council members have voiced concerns about the potential cost of removing lead service lines to homes, as well as infringing on the property rights of residents.

In a unanimous decision at Monday’s council meeting, the Council considered a resolution to concur with the Great Lakes Water Authority (GLWA), the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department and the Oakland County Drain Commissioner—all of whom have petitioned a request to appeal the MDEQ lead and copper rules.

City Manager Brad Barrett said that the Oakland County Drain Commissioner made a request to the City of Flushing to join the appeal.

“We’ve been informed that other large entities (water utilities) are fighting the rule,” he said. “Many communities are not supporting the lead and copper rules either.”

Barrett added that replacing lead pipes to homes would be costly, forcing the city to raise water and sewer rates. He also cited the possibility that some residents might see the removal of lines to their homes— and the resulting construction—as an encroachment on their property rights.

For his part, Councilperson John Gault called the MDEQ regulations “totally ludicrous” because they could put a financial burden on the city and spark legal challenges from residents.

As outlined in the MDEQ rules, community water systems will be required to replace five percent of lead service pipes per year over a 20-year period, starting in 2021. The regulations do, however, allow for some flexibility to give communities more time to comply.

The Lead and Copper Rule, which was instituted in the wake of the Flint Water Crisis, is expected to cost the state around $2.5 billion over several decades.

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