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