by Julia Forrest, Michigan Advance
September 26, 2022
Two bills that streamline improving water quality in schools and childcare centers passed the Michigan Senate last week. The bills would install lead-free water filters and develop other water safety plans to be implemented in schools and childcare centers.
Senate Bills 184 and 185 were introduced by Sens. Curtis VanderWall (R-Ludington) and Jim Ananich (D-Flint). The pair of bills, which passed 35-1 in the Senate on Tuesday, would issue guidelines and disburse funds to schools and child care centers to install and upkeep equipment to ensure students have access to lead-free water.
Sen. Ed McBroom (R-Vulcan) was the only senator to vote against the package. He did not return a request for comment for this story.
The price tag on the two-bill package is estimated to be between $78 million and $88 million, according to a fiscal analysis done by the nonpartisan Senate Fiscal Agency.
The analysis calculated the first bill’s cost to be about $58 million once the installation of filtered bottle-fillers and water faucets in every school is complete. The second bill to install filtered water fillers and faucets across all child care centers in the state could cost anywhere from $20 million to $30 million. An additional yearly water sampling and testing to maintain the systems would tack on an additional $3 million to $5 million.
Co-sponsors of the package were Sens. Adam Hollier (D-Detroit), Paul Wojno (D-Warren), Stephanie Chang (D-Detroit), Rosemary Bayer (D-Beverly Hills), Dayna Polehanki (D-Livonia), Erika Geiss (D-Taylor) and Winnie Brinks (D-Grand Rapids); Sen. Wayne Schmidt (R-Traverse City) was the only Republican to co-sponsor the package.
Charlotte Jameson, chief policy officer for the Michigan Environmental Council, said in a statement that lead poisoning can impact children by stunting their development, causing difficulty learning and making them physically ill.
“No amount of lead is safe for children,” Jameson said. “Filters eliminate the threat of lead in children’s drinking water, helping them thrive now and far into the future.”
The bills now head to the House where they have been referred to the Regulatory Reform Committee.
The plan also comes after the $4.8 billion supplemental state budget passed in March poured $50 million into helping buy drinking water filtration devices in schools and childcare facilities across the state. An additional $75 million went to lead service line replacements in Detroit while another $45 million went improving drinking water infrastructure in Benton Harbor.
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