Sen. Ruth Johnson: Governor’s cuts to well water testing funds irresponsible, put Michigan families’ health at risk

Sen. Ruth Johnson: Governor’s cuts to well water testing funds irresponsible, put Michigan families’ health at risk

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Ruth Johnson on Thursday expressed her disappointment with the governor for removing $7.5 million the Legislature allocated for private well water testing in the fiscal year 2020 budget through an administrative transfer.

“It’s unbelievable that the governor would play politics with the safety of drinking water for Michigan families,” said Johnson, R-Holly. “Twenty-five percent of Michigan residents rely on private wells for drinking water — more than any other state in the country — and they face water safety concerns, like arsenic, nitrates and PFAS. We have a responsibility to help people learn about what could be in their drinking water and affecting the health of their families and how to fix it.

“This is how I first got involved as a citizen. Everyone deserves to know what is in the water they are drinking and not everyone is on a municipal system. In fact, millions of Michiganians instead rely on private wells for drinking water, including countless people in the 14th Senate District in northern Oakland and southern Genesee counties.

“I fought to get this funding in the budget to help people know if their children are drinking arsenic in their water, and the governor transferred it all away. People are continuing to be at risk.”

The transfer was made less than a day after the governor signed the state budget but issued 147 line-item vetoes to cut nearly $950 million, including $375 million in additional road funding and $128 million from the K-12 school aid budget.

The health effects of various drinking water contaminants have been known for many years. They can be both naturally occurring, including arsenic, or manmade. According to the Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy, long-term exposure to even low levels of arsenic in drinking water is known to cause human health problems, including diabetes, cancer, thickening and discoloration of the skin, problems with blood vessels, high blood pressure, heart disease, nerve effects including numbness and/or pain, and interference with some important cell functions. Short-term exposure to very high levels of arsenic may cause stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, headaches, weakness, and even death.

There is some evidence that suggests that long-term exposure to arsenic can cause cognitive deficits in children, even at low concentrations. Nitrates, which often leach into groundwater from agricultural use, have been linked to a change to hemoglobin in infants — also known as blue baby syndrome — who consumed formula prepared with drinking water that contained high levels of nitrates.

“The sad part is this is preventable,” Johnson said. “There are several ways to make contaminated well water safe to drink, such as reverse osmosis or point-of-use cartridge filters, but first you need to know what’s in your water. Different contaminants require different treatments.”

Residents who want to learn more about well water quality, including links to local, state and federal resources, can visit Johnson’s Water Resources page. The page offers information about common contaminants and links to testing facilities, such as the state’s drinking water laboratory.

In the Private Well Information “State Resources” section of the page, visitors can click on Water Quality Maps to see county maps for arsenic and also download an Arsenic Brochure for details on arsenic in well water.

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