The Michigan Senate last week voted in favor of legislation to protect children from lead in drinking water at schools and childcare centers.
Introduced by state Sens. John Cherry (D-Flint) and Sylvia Santana (D-Detroit), Senate Bills 88 and 89 would require all Michigan schools and child care centers to implement a drinking water management plan in addition to installing filtered faucets and bottle-filling stations and testing the filtered water to ensure proper installation.
The bills received bipartisan support on Thursday, passing the Democratic-led Senate in a 30-7 vote. The bill now moves to the House for consideration.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, even low levels of lead in blood can negatively affect a child’s development, with the most proactive solution to exposure in schools being the placement of filters where water is used for human consumption.
“By getting water filters in schools and child care centers, we can prevent our children from experiencing the detrimental effects of lead poisoning,” Cherry said. “This legislation fights an issue we are actively facing across Michigan by creating an effective solution to lead poisoning in schools and daycares.”
The package was previously introduced in 2021 by former Sens. Curtis VanderWall (R-Ludington) and Jim Ananich (D-Flint). While the bills cleared the Senate in September 2022, they never made it out of the House Regulatory Reform Committee.
In a statement, Michigan Senate Democrats called the bills a cost-effective solution compared to repeated water testing or replacing entire plumbing systems.
According to an analysis from the nonpartisan Senate Fiscal Agency, the total cost to purchase and install new faucets and filtered bottle-fillers is estimated between $78 million and $88 million, though costs could be lower if schools and child care centers are already up to date on these new requirements. According to Senate Democrats, funding for this initiative was approved last year.
Democrats also touted support from health and environmental experts, including the Michigan Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Michigan Nurses Association, the Learning Disabilities Association of Michigan, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and Clean Water Action. The bills also received support from LaTricea Adams, a member of the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council and the founder CEO and president of Black Millenials 4 Flint.
“No parent should have to worry about their child being exposed to lead poisoning at school or daycare, just as no student should have to worry about the quality of water coming out of their drinking fountain,” Santana said. “As infrastructure ages and becomes unreliable, so does water quality. These bills prevent a risky guessing game by implementing filters to monitor water quality throughout schools and daycare centers.”
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