Michigan’s Lead Drinking Water Protections Survive Legal Challenge

DETROIT, MI – Michigan’s Lead and Copper Rule, passed to prevent future disasters like Flint’s lead in drinking water crisis, was upheld in court. The nation’s most protective lead standard, which helps keep lead out of drinking water, survived all but one yet-to-be decided legal challenge from cities and water utilities. Chief Judge of the Michigan Court of Claims Christopher M. Murray said “the arguments raised by the plaintiffs sound more in the nature of matters that could have—and in fact appear to have been—addressed during the public comment period." The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and The Great Lakes Environmental Law Center (GLELC) filed an amicus brief in support of the Michigan law.

The following is a reaction by prominent Michigan water advocates:

Jeremy Orr, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC):
“Every Michigander has a right to safe, sufficient, and affordable drinking water, and today’s ruling goes a long way toward protecting that right. The lawsuit brought by Jim Nash and others was a reckless attempt to repeal one of our state’s strongest drinking water protections—the Lead and Copper Rule, which helps keep toxic metals out of our drinking water. These protections are critical to securing safe drinking water for communities across the state and ensuring that a disaster like the Flint water crisis never happens again.

“Looking ahead, we remain willing to work with cities and utilities to find funding sources to replace dangerous lead water lines and to make other water system upgrades. We share a goal of securing safe and affordable drinking water throughout Michigan.”

Nick Leonard, Executive Director of the Great Lakes Environmental Law Center:
“We cannot adequately protect our most vulnerable residents, such as pregnant women and infants, by treating our drinking water to prevent the corrosion of lead pipes. It's important that all communities, particularly communities of color and low income that generally experience high rates of lead poisoning, start down a path to replacing all lead service lines as soon as possible. 

“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 do assess the lead contamination caused by the lead service line outside of the home. 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.”  

The lawsuit challenging Michigan’s Lead and Copper Rule was filed by the Great Lakes Water Authority, City of Livonia, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggin, Oakland County Commissioner Jim Nash, along with the Detroit Water and Sewage Department and the Oakland County Water Commission.

Additional Resource:
Challenge to State Rules Stirs Up New Michigan Lead In Drinking Water Crisis (Dec. 11, 2018)


The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 3 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world's natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City; Washington, D.C.; Los Angeles; San Francisco; Chicago; Bozeman, Montana; and Beijing. Visit us at www.nrdc.org and follow us on Twitter @NRDC.

The Great Lakes Environmental Law Center (GLELC) is a Detroit-based nonprofit that offers community education, policy support, and various legal services to address environmental, resource, & energy issues affecting communities in and around Detroit, all over Michigan, and throughout the Great Lakes region. Visit GLELC at www.glelc.org.



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