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Michigan NewsGovernor Whitmer's Filter First initiative: A landmark step towards safer school drinking...

Governor Whitmer’s Filter First initiative: A landmark step towards safer school drinking water

Michigan – The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) has announced it will start new steps to keep lead out of drinking water in schools, thanks to a law called Filter First. This law was approved by lawmakers and signed by Governor Gretchen Whitmer last October.

Michigan already has very strict rules to remove lead from public water, and this new plan, supported by both political parties, provides $50 million to help put special water stations in schools and child care places to reduce lead.

Filter First, which includes the Clean Drinking Water Access Act (2023 PA 154) and changes to the Child Care Organizations Act (1973 PA 116), is the first law of its kind aimed at protecting kids from lead in water at schools and child care centers. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says there’s no safe level of lead for kids and avoiding all lead exposure is important for a child’s health.

“Every parent wants to make sure their children are safe, and the Filter First bills will protect access to clean drinking water at school,” said Governor Whitmer. “In Michigan, we know how important it is to protect our kids at school. With Filter First, we are taking action so all our kids have access to safe drinking water so they can focus on learning in class. We have also delivered free breakfast and lunch, invested in mental health, and improved school safety. To protect access to safe drinking water across Michigan, we worked together to enforce the strongest lead and copper rule in the country, made record, bipartisan investments to fix our water infrastructure, and helped communities replace thousands of lead service lines.”

Under the new law, schools and child care centers in the state have to come up with a plan to make sure their drinking water is safe, put filters on all water sources to reduce lead, and check the water every year for schools and every two years for child care centers.

The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) will help pay for the first-time setup of filtered water stations, coolers, faucet filters, and some costs for upkeep and testing until the money runs out.

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EGLE is teaming up with the Michigan Department of Lifelong Education, Advancement, and Potential (MiLEAP) to offer schools and child care centers a guide and advice on choosing filters by April 2024. This is to make sure they’re ready before the Filter First law starts. They need to have their water plans done by January 24, 2025, and get all drinking water sources fitted with approved filters by the end of the 2025-2026 school year.

EGLE recently put up a website about Filter First for schools and child care administrators. They’re also planning an online training session on April 10, 2024, and will share a guide and plan template for people to comment on by April 24, 2024.

Filter First is part of EGLE’s efforts to make sure kids can drink safe water. Even though water in schools and child care places must meet the same safety rules as in homes, not using water for a while can make it risky because of bacteria, lead, and copper. EGLE’s School Drinking Water Program offers advice and tools on how to keep water safe, including free checks on plumbing, how to manage and test water, understand test results, lower risks, and keep water moving.

For more on Michigan’s strict rules for testing water for lead and how to make water safer at home, check out the state’s Mi Lead Safe website.