Multidisciplinary U-M team supports implementation of Michigan’s revised lead and copper rule

June 26, 2019
Contact: Charles Kamper,
Jim Erickson

ANN ARBOR—In the wake of the Flint water crisis, the state of Michigan implemented the country’s most stringent lead and copper rule last year.

To facilitate public understanding of the new regulations, the Water Center at the University of Michigan’s Graham Sustainability Institute has established a multidisciplinary team of experts from the School of Public Health, the Ford School of Public Policy and the College of Engineering, along with help from Safe Water Engineering.

This month, the team made available new information, including responses to FAQs, infographics explaining the rule changes and case studies about public finance to support rule implementation. Find the material at the Graham Sustainability Institute’s website.

The diverse team also aims to inform water utilities and municipal leaders about the public health and policy implications of Michigan’s new lead and copper rule.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s current lead and copper rule has an action level for lead of 15 parts per billion, but Michigan’s new rule will lower that level to 12 ppb by 2025. Before Jan. 1, 2041, Michigan water suppliers must replace all lead service lines on both public and private property, and the rule establishes new water sampling requirements.

“The federal rule only requires the replacement of lead service lines if corrosion control doesn’t work, and it only requires partial replacement of lead service lines. The Michigan rule is aiming for all lead service line replacement in the next 20 years,” said project leader and Water Center Director Jennifer Read.

Read said the group’s objectives are twofold.

“First, we want to help everyone who is affected by the new rule really understand why the rule is important and what it means. The second part is providing technical support to the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy for things such as developing standard operating procedures for water suppliers to use,” she said.

What's changed with Michigan's 2018 Lead and Copper rule?

In order to provide the public further ease of access to expert-reviewed materials, Read and her colleagues have placed new resources on their website. Visitors can now gain an understanding of the rule’s implications from public health, technical compliance and policy perspectives. If simply looking for answers to questions about lead service lines or corrosion control, a new FAQ page walks readers through the lead and copper rule without excessive scientific jargon.

Viewers can also visually examine the rule using a comprehensive infographic. Safe Water Engineering’s Elin Betanzo helped create the infographic

“The Michigan Lead and Copper Rule is technical and complex,” she said. “The infographic illustrates how the requirements have changed and explains how the changes reduce exposure to lead in drinking water. It explains how the requirements affect drinking water in your own home.”

Finally, if interested in the policy implications of Michigan’s new rule, a set of financing case studies is now featured on the website as well. Both state and local strategies appear alongside funding considerations and legislative implications.

“The case studies look at three different mechanisms for funding lead service line replacement,” said Sarah Mills, a Ford School of Public Policy professor and team member. “Replacements will cost local governments more money in the short term, and these case studies provide examples of how it’s been funded elsewhere.

“We also highlighted practices that water systems can do themselves and how other state level policies could help facilitate the service line replacement.”

Given the public health consequences of lead in water, seen in places such as Flint, the multidisciplinary team hopes their resources inform citizens and policymakers in Michigan and across the region, perhaps even nationally, of their important work.