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MDEQ releases watered-down lead and copper standard

May 11, 2018

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality updated its proposed lead and copper rule to allow utilities more flexibility in scheduling replacement of lead service lines. It also increased the lead action level from the original 10 parts per billion to 12 ppb. The federal action level is 15.

Under the initial proposal, lead service line replacement would be based on water testing results, and utilities would be required to replace those lines within 20 years. The revised rule requires replacement of all lead service lines regardless of tested lead levels, but allows utilities to incorporate the work into their regular maintenace schedules.

Randy Roost, principal planner of Water Operations for the Lansing Board of Water and Light, says that this allows utilities to take advantage of cost efficiencies, particularly when it comes to replacing lead lines to private homes.

However, the new proposed rule doesn’t resolve confusion over who will pay to replace those privately owned lines. “The only mechanism we have for generating revenues to pay for that is through our rates, which means some customers are paying for another customer's lead service line replacement,” says Roost.

According to Roost, public funds can’t be used to pay for private infrastructure.