ICYMI: Flint water crisis prompts EPA reform bill from Upton, Kildee
In the wake of the Flint water crisis, Congressman Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph and Congressman Dan Kildee, D-Flint, today introduced a bill to speed public notification when concentrations of lead in drinking water are above federal requirements.
The bill is co-sponsored by all 14 members of Michigan's congressional delegation, , said a joint press release from Upton and Kildee.
A similar bill was introduced in the Senate by Michigan Sens. Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peter.
The Safe Drinking Water Act Improved Compliance Awareness Act will strengthen requirements to have the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency notify the public when concentrations of lead exceed federal standards, the press release said.
The proposed legislation "requires the EPA to create a strategic plan for handling and improving information flow between water utilities, the states, the EPA, and affected consumers. It also ensures consumer notification when the corrosiveness of water being transported in a lead pipe could leech into public drinking water," the press release said.
In Flint, the EPA was aware for months of potential issues of high lead levels in drinking water but was rebuff by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, according to internal documents that have been recently made public by media outlets.
EPA Administrator Susan Hedman, who oversaw the Midwest region including Michigan, concluded that while the EPA sets water-quality standards, it could not overrule state agencies in enforcing those regulations. She has since been criticized for not being more aggressive to confronting the DEQ.
Hedman announced her resignation late last month and the EPA has said it is reviewing its response to the situation in Flint. The EPA's response was among the topic discussed Wednesday during a Congressional hearing on the Flint water crisis.
"When there are unacceptable levels of lead in people's drinking water, they should immediately be told about it," Kildee said in the press release. "This legislation, supported by Democrats and Republicans, strengthens notification requirements for the public and changes federal law to ensure that people are notified quickly when there are dangerous levels of lead in their drinking water. This is the latest action I'm taking in Congress to promote accountability and help Flint recover from this terrible man-made tragedy."
"What happened in Flint is simply unacceptable at all levels. No amount of regrets or words can actually fix what's broken – we need concrete action," said Upton, who chairs the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.
"Our bipartisan legislation will ensure consumers are not kept in the dark and makes certain the EPA fulfills their fundamental duty to warn the public of high lead levels," Upton said in the press release. "Our efforts now must focus on helping those Flint families who need clean water. We're not letting up."