Water quality stirs interest of Michigan voters

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Michiganders want the State to examine for failing water systems. Image: Peter Dutton, Flickr

Michiganders want state officials to check for more failing water systems. Image: Peter Dutton, Flickr

By Eric Freedman

The controversy about elevated levels of lead in Flint’s drinking water has sparked significant concern about water quality across Michigan, a new statewide survey shows.

More than 90 percent of those surveyed want the state to examine urban water systems for indications of faulty infrastructure and 84 percent want the state to test the water in public schools at least annually.

The survey was done for the independent public policy research firm Public Sector Consultants and Ann Arbor-based Michigan Public Radio.

Water quality has risen in public visibility after the discovery earlier this year that the amount of lead in the tap water exceeded safe levels in some Flint schools and homes.

The problem arose after the financially troubled city switched from the more expensive Detroit water system to drawing water from the Flint River. That water proved corrosive and released lead when it came into contact with lead in service lines, pipes and solder, health officials said.

The situation triggered a public health emergency, accusations of lax monitoring by the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), last month’s reelection defeat of Mayor Dayne Walling and a lawsuit by Flint residents against the city. In addition, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced an audit of Michigan’s drinking water program.

The DEQ acknowledged in a statement that it had been confused about the relevant federal regulations, saying, “What has become clear in recent weeks is that staff believed they were handling the situation in accordance with the proper protocol for a water provider using a new source, but … they were not.”

The city plans to get its water from Lake Huron, possibly starting in the summer of 2016.

In the newly released survey, 46 percent of those questioned said they are very concerned or somewhat concerned about the safety of the water in their own homes.

Ninety-one percent said it’s somewhat important or very important that the state “examine the water systems in other densely populated areas for signs of failing water infrastructure.”

In addition, 54.5 percent advocated annual testing of school water and another 29.3 percent favored more frequent testing. Currently, school water is tested only at the request of school districts, according to Selma Tucker, the director of marketing and communications at Public Sector Consultants.

There were demographic differences in the polling results. For example, whites and Republicans were less concerned than African Americans and Democrats, the survey found, while participants in Detroit and elsewhere in Wayne County were more concerned than Michigan residents elsewhere.

This story was produced by Capital News Service

2 thoughts on “Water quality stirs interest of Michigan voters

  1. I’m pleased that the public consciousness has been raised about water quality. It is tragic that it required this level of harm to such a large, captive group of people to raise it.

    Beyond the tragedy of that occurred in that community, it is tragic that so much of the focus keeps shifting away from the systemic problems that allowed this to happen. Examining the government-imposed, dictatorial, “emergency manager” regime that set the stage for an entire city to be poisoned is crucial to preventing this from ever happening again.

    The voters of our wonderful state must come to terms with the fact that we have elected, or through voter apathy allowed candidates to be elected who proudly believe there is no legitimate role for government.

    When candidates, who despise government, are installed to run government, we should not be surprised when their anti-government values become self-fulfilling prophecies and their actions diminish the public good.

    I guarantee that if what happened in Flint had impacted their own gentrified and gated communities, our Tea Party and small-government legislators and governor would have thrown a fit – not been dismissive of the scientists, clinicians, and other professionals who brought the problem to their attention.

    If EVERYONE who is ELIGIBLE to vote did so, government in Michigan and all across this great nation would be far more responsive to the needs of ALL Americans – not just the privileged few.

    We must all get out and vote. We all need to encourage our friends, neighbors and relatives to do the same. Not voting makes people part of the problem rather than part of the solution.

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