Michigan rolls out Filter First program for schools’ drinking water

Feb. 15, 2024
Under new state legislation, schools must develop a drinking water management plan, install lead-reducing filters and test filtered water annually.

The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) announced plans to implement new protections against lead in school drinking water under the Filter First legislation passed by the state legislature and signed by Governor Gretchen Whitmer last October.

The bipartisan legislation directs $50 million in funding and other resources to support the installation of lead-reducing water stations at schools and child care centers throughout 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) create the first-of-its-kind legislation specifically designed to protect children from exposure to lead in drinking water in schools and child care centers. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that no safe blood lead level has been identified in children. To promote a child’s healthy development, all exposure to lead should be prevented.

“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 state legislation, schools must develop a drinking water management plan (DWMP), install lead-reducing filters on all drinking water fixtures, and test filtered water annually. Child care centers must follow the same protocols and test their water every two years.

Funding administered by EGLE will be available 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 is funding exhausted.

EGLE is working with the Michigan Department of Lifelong Education, Advancement, and Potential (MiLEAP) to provide schools and child care centers with a DWMP template and guidance on filters by April of 2024. This will give schools the necessary time to implement the program before the Filter First legislation goes into effect. Schools and child care centers are expected to complete DWMPs by Jan. 24, 2025, and have approved filters on all drinking water sources by the end of the 2025-2026 school year.

EGLE this week launched the Filter First web page containing more information about the program for school and child care administrators. EGLE and MiLEAP are also planning to host a training webinar on Filter First April 10, 2024, and will post guidance documents and a DWMP template for a 30-day public comment period by April 24, 2024.

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