In December, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced that she would be reorganizing the state government in order to put an emphasis on ensuring safe drinking water for Michigan residents.
“We need to be laser-focused on cleaning up water in our state,” Whitmer said at a news conference at the time of the announcement.
Nathan Foote, a registered sanitarian and public health official who calls himself a “water, poop and dirt guy,” agreed with Whitmer: “We have a precious commodity. If we ignore the care of that, it would be a big mistake.”
Many see efforts to improve and clean local water as simply an effort to avoid another Flint, but according to Foote, lead isn’t a danger around Lansing, at least not anymore. Lansing completed a massive effort to replace its aging, lead-laced pipes and service lines in 2017. And, despite what many across the state think, unless you’re on a coastline, all residents of Michigan get their water from a well. So, lead only becomes an issue when the water touches the lead-laced pipe or comes into contact with older parts in a well.
While Whitmer’s water shakeup will focus on many of the contributing factors that led to the Flint situation, like systematic racism or discrimination, the initiative will also develop drinking water standards for certain toxic industrial chemicals rather than waiting for updated federal guidelines.
It’s a much-needed fight, according to Foote, who added that while we have gorgeous water here in Michigan, we will need to protect it from outside threats and those that want to tap into it.
“The municipal water supplies in Michigan are in the 95th percentile of water nationwide,” he noted, adding that the rain falling today won’t impact our water supply for another 50 years so making changes now to protect and clean our water is an important step. “It’s all about prevention and observation. Maintenance is great, we have to have it.”
That maintenance in Lansing is already being done in many ways. Both Foote and Craig Prange, marketing director at Culligan Lansing, agreed that the Lansing Board of Water & Light takes great care of the water. “They’re great at what they do,” said Prange, with Foote adding that they test their water 25 times a day to stay in compliance with the Environmental Protection Agency.
Prange and those at Culligan play a big part in water care around Lansing but don’t just focus on taking care of water for residents of Greater Lansing. They also visit homes to test water if residents are concerned and provide specialized equipment to soften and clean water whenneeded. They also take care of those that take care of those residents. While Michigan’s water is clean, it’s not clean enough for those that rely on water in life or death situations.
“Hospitals still have to get their water purer than what comes out of the faucet, and we step in and provide that,” Prange said.There are many things that can impact water and leave citizens concerned but, according to Foote, many of the things that impact the smell and taste of water are minerals like iron that are actually good for your hair and skin. Yet, Prange said, if you’re concerned about the way your water smells, tastes or looks, it’s always good to call in an expert.
To aid in Whitmer’s plan to protect Michigan’s water and join in the work that those like Prange and Foote are doing, we simply need to be aware of what we are putting into our water. Whether it’s household discharge, agricultural runoff or municipal runoff, these things will all impact the outstanding water we have here in Michigan, and they need to be monitored and possibly prevented.
“We have some of the best water in the world,” Foote said confidently. “Why would we mess with that?