Court dismisses challenge to Michigan’s Lead and Copper Rule

    Flint River downtown | Susan J. Demas

    A Michigan Court of Claims judge has dismissed a lawsuit challenging Michigan’s Lead and Copper Rule, the toughest regulation in the country for the two substances in drinking water.

    The rule went into effect in June 2018 during the former Gov. Rick Snyder administration in the aftermath of the Flint water crisis. As the Michigan Advance first reported in December, 52 municipalities, which included the city of Detroit and many surrounding suburbs, pushed back against the rule.

    An eventual lawsuit was filed by a coalition that included Detroit and the Great Lakes Water Authority, which argued that the rule is unnecessarily restrictive. Chief Judge of the Michigan Court of Claims Christopher Murray dismissed that argument, saying such issues should have been addressed during the rule’s public comment period.

    Utilities fight Michigan’s post-Flint lead regulation

    Environmental groups celebrated the lawsuit’s dismissal. Nick Leonard, executive director of the Great Lakes Environmental Law Center, touted advances in regulation already made under the Lead and Copper Rule.

    “Key requirements in the revised lead and copper rule are starting to be implemented. For example, water systems are just starting to take additional tap samples to assess the lead contamination caused by the lead service line outside of the home,” Leonard said. 

    “Additionally, at the start of 2020, water systems must submit an initial assessment describing where lead service lines are in their territory. These key, new requirements will enable residents and the State to more fully assess the risk that lead in water presents to public health.” 

    In June, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed a bill that allocated $3 million for funding the new regulation and testing regime that, among other things, will require municipalities by 2040 to locate and replace all lead pipes.

    Whitmer admin. pledges ‘transparency’ on clean water

    The commissioner of the Oakland County Water Resources Commission, one of the plaintiffs, told the Detroit News Friday that they don’t plan to appeal the Court of Claims’ decision.

    “The whole point of this lawsuit was to get in the door, to sit down with [the state] and talk about the concerns we had,” Commissioner Jim Nash said. “That’s what we accomplished.”

    Derek Robertson
    Derek Robertson covers local government, education, health care and the social safety net, and LGBTQ issues. Previously, he wrote for Politico Magazine in Washington, and before that covered local politics in Chicago. He is a Genesee County native and graduate of both Wayne State University, where he studied history, and the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. He enjoys film, the Detroit Pistons and his cat. He once competed in the National Spelling Bee, but was eliminated before any potential ESPN appearances.

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