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State hosts public forums for feedback on drinking water systems

tap water
Public Domain Pictures

Last year, Governor Gretchen Whitmer issued an executive order, directing state agencies to review their role in supporting drinking water systems across Michigan. State officials hosted a public forum Sept. 7 to gather public’s feedback on drinking water infrastructure.

"Do you think the government does a good enough job at protecting your drinking water?"

This is one of many questions asked at the forum. Attendees responded with a resounding “no” saying more can be done.

Andrea Dejong is a teacher in Manistee. She said students can’t drink water using the sink in her classroom because it has high levels of lead.

“I’ve been there for five years now, and I’m wondering, how many kids have drank this water?" Dejong said. "I would really like to know more about laws telling [school] staff and even parents about this contamination in the classroom.”

Community-members also voiced concerns about communication on water issues, PFAS contamination, and a lack of regulation on private wells.

Roger Rayle lives near Ann Arbor. He said he believes regulators are doing the best they can with the resources they have, but he’d like to see more stringent regulations.

“EGLE is hamstrung by Michigan's weak environmental laws, and that's all in the legislature," Rayle said. "We need to be better stewards, we need to have the strictest standards, not the some of the loosest standards in the area.”

State officials did not respond to comments, and said they were only there to listen.

The state is hosting another virtual session on Sept. 12, and comments can be submitted online.

Feedback will be incorporated into state agencies' review of the state's Public Health Code and Safe Drinking Water Act.

Teresa Homsi is an environmental reporter and Report for America Corp Member based in northern Michigan for WCMU. She is covering rural environmental issues, public health and Michigan commerce. Homsi has a bachelor’s from Central Michigan University in environmental studies, journalism and anthropology. During her undergraduate, she was a beat reporter for CMU’s student newspaper Central Michigan Life and interned for the Huron Daily Tribune. She has also interned for the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy in the superfund section. *Report for America is a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms, more info at https://www.reportforamerica.org/