We must eliminate the threat of lead in school districts statewide. We can do this by passing bipartisan Filter First legislation at Michigan’s Capitol, which would ensure the state installs filters at all school and daycare center fountains and taps.
I know this policy will work because the Ann Arbor Public School District I serve installed water filters years back. Verification tests show those filters are working to ensure we are providing clean drinking water to children.
The Board of Education made this decision as the Flint water crisis unfolded. We felt outrage and hopelessness as thousands of children were reported with high blood lead levels.
We knew when children ingested lead through water, dust or paint chips, they could be poisoned. Lead can slow growth and development; damage brains and nervous systems; create learning and behavioral problems; and lead to hearing and speech impairments.
The crisis sparked Ann Arbor Schools to act. We tested for lead in our school buildings new and old and found the metal in both. But there weren’t, and still aren’t, government regulations specific to lead in school drinking water.
So, we forged our own. The Board of Education knew no levels of lead in school drinking water was acceptable. Through water, lead and health experts, we found and implemented the most effective way to get lead-free water – filtering first. We installed filters on water fountains and taps; provided proper signage and education; and regularly tested, flushed and upgraded our new water system.
Now all other school districts in the state have a chance to, too.
Sens. Jim Ananich (D-Flint) and Curt VanderWall (R-Ludington) are leading the way with Senate Bills 184 and 185. The bills provide an orderly process to ensure all water sources at all schools and childcare centers are free from lead thanks to filters. Sen. Bumstead (R-Newaygo)’s Senate Bill 565 would fund filter installation and maintenance.
If these bills pass, they will provide the roadmap and the funding for other communities to install and maintain their own lead filters so they don’t have to go through a confusing process alone like Ann Arbor did.
AAPS started this filter overhaul in 2015 but it took until 2019 for our children’s drinking water to be fully filtered of any lead. It came with confusion, lessons learned on the go and big costs as we completed water filtration in 32 buildings and more than 1,400 sources of drinking water.
The Filter First bill package will take the funding burdens and learning curves out of the equation. Most importantly, it will create a lead-free future for millions of Michigan children. It does so by doing the following:
- Ensuring schools and daycares statewide can assess water quality and create safe drinking water plans with guidance from the Department of Environment Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE).
- Requiring schools and daycare centers to install filtered drinking water outlets and on-tap…