LANSING, Mich. (Michigan News Source) – The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) has introduced a new initiative aimed at safeguarding school drinking water from lead contamination, known as the “Filter First” program.

This initiative is a result of the Filter First legislation, which was passed by the state legislature and signed into law by Governor Gretchen Whitmer in October of last year.

Bipartisan legislation allocated funds to make drinking water at schools safe for kids.

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Building upon the success of Michigan’s most stringent Lead and Copper Rule, designed to eliminate lead in public water supplies, the bipartisan legislation allocates $50 million in funding and additional resources to facilitate the installation of lead-reducing water stations in schools and child care centers across the state.

Collectively known as Filter First, the Clean Drinking Water Access Act (2023 PA 154) and amendments to the Child Care Organizations Act (1973 PA 116) represent a pioneering legislative effort focused on shielding children from lead exposure in drinking water within educational and child care settings. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also emphasizes the need for the prevention of any lead exposure to ensure a child’s healthy development.

Governor Whitmer on board with “Filter First.”

Governor Whitmer expressed support for the Filter First bills, stating, “Every parent wants to make sure their children are safe, and the Filter First bills will protect access to clean drinking water at school.”

Highlighting Michigan’s commitment to child safety, the governor outlined various initiatives, including the enforcement of the nation’s strongest lead and copper rule, bipartisan investments in water infrastructure, and assistance to communities in replacing thousands of lead service lines.

Schools and child care centers will need to come up with a drinking water management plan.

Under the newly enacted state legislation, schools are required to formulate a Drinking Water Management Plan (DWMP), install lead-reducing filters on all drinking water fixtures, and conduct annual testing of filtered water. Child care centers must adhere to similar protocols and test their water every two years.

EGLE will administer funding for the one-time acquisition and installation of filtered bottle filling stations, water coolers, point-of-use faucet filters, and certain maintenance and sampling costs until the funds are depleted.

Help is on the way before required mandates take effect.

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Collaborating with the Michigan Department of Lifelong Education, Advancement, and Potential (MiLEAP), EGLE aims to provide schools and child care centers with a DWMP template and filter guidance by April 2024.

The implementation timeline allows educational institutions to adopt the program before the Filter First legislation takes effect. Schools and child care centers are expected to complete DWMPs by January 24, 2025, and have approved filters on all drinking water sources by the end of the 2025-2026 school year.