AMASA, Mich. (WLUC) - Last Friday, Governor Snyder signed House Bill 5120 at a church in Flint, which he believes will prevent other crises, like the Flint Water Crisis, from happening elsewhere in Michigan. The bill amends the 1976 "Safe Drinking Water Act," and requires municipal water systems to notify the public within three business days of finding out lead levels exceed the federal action level. This is a change from the previous 30 day deadline.
Though Marquette Township has never come close to exceeding the action level, the Township Water Operator believes the bill is a great change for not only the public, but the water industry as well.
"It gives the public more up to date information of what's going on," said Leonard Bodenus, Water Operator for Marquette Township. "It's actually better, I believe, for our industry because it gives more transparency. People know what we're doing, and they'll know what's in their water right away."
While this bill was signed in response to the water crisis downstate in Flint, White Water Associates, a laboratory and an environmental consulting firm in Amasa, says they conduct many water tests from U.P. homes worried about lead in their water, especially when homeowners don't want to wait for testing by their municipal water system.
"The source of lead is often in the home itself," said Bette Premo, the owner of White Water Associates. "It's due to either lead pipes, or to lead solder with copper pipes, or sometimes lead fixtures. So anyone that's concerned about that, can certainly have the testing done themselves."
Lead testing for drinking water takes about two weeks for results, since it is a lengthy process for the testing and analysis. Although this new bill will not change how quickly the laboratories need to operate, it will affect them in other ways.
"There will probably be more testing because the governor is requesting that schools and other public buildings get their water tested," said Premo. "People will probably test a little more often too, just because of the findings out there now like lead in service lines and other things like that."
Even more changes are expected for lead in drinking water regulations. Right now the EPA recommends lead in water should not exceed 15 parts per billion, and Governor Snyder has expressed he wants to reduce that to 10 parts per billion by 2020.
It costs $15 to have drinking water tested for lead, and $25 to do a combination test of lead and copper at White Water Associates. White Water Associates also supplies the container to fill with your water, so the sample is not contaminated by an outside bottle.
Typically tests are run for both the worst-case scenario, and the "actual usage" scenario. Worst-case scenario entails grabbing a sample of water first thing in the morning, so it's water that's been sitting in the pipes all night long. Actual usage test entails getting a sample of water from the middle of the day, that's been cycling through your pipes at home all day long. Though cases vary, the biggest steps taken for homes with high lead levels include replacing piping or getting a water filtration system that can filter out lead from water.
The highest risk homes for lead contamination are older homes, with old plumbing and pipes. Also, homes that aren't receiving water from a regulated municipal water system, but rather ground water or wells. Premo suggests homeowners in these two situations should have their water tested as soon as possible.
Actions you can take to reduce lead in your drinking water include flushing your pipes before drinking, only consuming COLD tap water, as hot water is likely to contain higher levels of lead, and having your water tested regularly.