By Sen. Mike Kowall
15th Senate District
The top priority of state government is the public safety of its residents. This includes the safety of our food and water. Recent events in Flint regarding lead in the city’s drinking water have raised the awareness of the need for the state and our communities to ensure we all have safe water.
Unhealthy levels of lead have been shown in many studies to affect brain function and development. In addition, children who have been exposed to higher levels of lead are more likely to have cognitive and behavioral problems during development than those who have not been exposed to these levels.
Recently introduced legislation now before the Senate Committee on Government Operations would specifically address the issue of safe drinking water in our communities.
Senate Bills 724 – 726 would do the following:
• Require drinking water testing at the faucet at least annually for the presence of lead and copper in all public and private schools connected to a municipal water supply system.
• Require the supplier of drinking water to a school to collect the samples and have them analyzed according to the standards of testing currently prescribed under state law.
• Require the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to post on its website the testing results and an assessment of the drinking water infrastructure that is used to provide drinking water to public and non-public schools in the state.
• Create a seven-member Safe Schools Drinking Water Task Force to review and recommend any changes to the department’s water sampling and testing protocol.
The Task Force would consist of a member of the DEQ; three members appointed by the Senate Majority Leader consisting of a public health official, an administrator of the pediatric unit of a hospital, and a resident; and three members appointed by the Speaker of the House consisting of a representative of the Department of Health and Human Services, a local school board member, and a resident.
• Require source water testing for the presence of lead and copper prior to the hookup of any public water supplier if the provider of the water changes the source of the public water supply.
Neither state nor federal law requires the testing of drinking water at all public and private schools. These bills will help to provide greater assurance that drinking water standards are met in our schools.
This is the least we can do to help ensure that we are all drinking water that is safe.
This column first appeared in the Spinal Column newsweekly. Senator Mike Kowall, R-White Lake, is the Michigan Senate majority floor leader and a member of the Senate Committee on Government Operations. He serves the residents of the 15th Senate District, representing western Oakland County.