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Michigan officials: Testing will uncover more lead in water

Liesl Clark, left, director of the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy, speaks about new lead testing rules for drinking water Wednesday, June 26, 2019, at the Romney Building in Lansing, Mich. She joined Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, right, and others to raise awareness at a time the state expects the regulations to lead to more communities exceeding lead limits. (AP Photo/David Eggert)

LANSING (AP) — Michigan officials on Wednesday began raising public awareness of tougher sampling rules they expect to result in more drinking water systems exceeding limits for lead, a byproduct of new regulations enacted after Flint’s crisis.
Samples now have to be taken not only from the first liter drawn from a house with exterior or interior lead plumbing, but also the fifth liter.
Liesl Clark, director of the state Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy, said the testing change will provide “more precision and more insight into what’s actually happening in the homes.”
“We’re expecting to see higher lead results in communities across the state,” she told The Associated Press before a news conference with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and state health officials.
Clark said 100 communities will send the state samples in coming weeks, and an additional 300 will follow in the fall.
She had no estimate of how many more systems could exceed the lead limit, which is triggered if concentrations surpass 15 parts per billion in more than 10% of customer taps sampled.
But she said one municipality, Hampton Township near Bay City, recently went over the threshold because of the fifth-liter sampling and would not have been flagged under the old testing protocol.
“We want to communicate with folks about that. We want them to be aware that the rules changed, and so we’re testing with more precision. We’re able to protect people in a better way,” Clark said.
Whitmer said she knows residents in affected municipalities will have questions and concerns.
“It’s important for us to make sure that the public understands that the existing water quality won’t have changed, but our testing requirements will have. We will have a lot more information.
“We will work in partnership with local communities to ensure that every person has access to clean drinking water in Michigan,” she said.
A year ago, former Gov. Rick Snyder put in place the nation’s strictest regulations for lead in drinking water in the wake of the man-made emergency in Flint.