Spurred by the lead poisoning crisis in Flint, Mich., the House voted 416-2 Wednesday to approve a bill requiring the Environmental Protection Agency to inform residents within 24 hours when tests show that drinking water is contaminated with lead.
In Flint, the EPA identified problems with lead contamination nearly a year ago, but spend months arguing with state officials before informing the public.
The bill, sponsored by Michigan Democrat Dan Kildee and Michigan Republican Fred Upton, would require the federal agency to alert consumers if the state hasn't already done so. It also calls on the EPA to develop a strategic plan for coordinating information among water utilities, the states and consumers.
“I thank my colleagues in Congress for taking swift action on this bill to start addressing the Flint water crisis,” Kildee said in a statement. “This bill simply states that when there are unacceptable levels of lead in people's drinking water, the public should be immediately told about it. This bill in itself wouldn’t have prevented the crisis in my hometown, but it is a necessary first step to ensure that such an emergency doesn’t happen again.”
The vote on his legislation came as House Democrats hosted a hearing with Flint Mayor Karen Weaver and experts about the water contamination that has exposed thousands of young children to lead in their drinking water.
In the Senate, Michigan Democrats are leading negotiations on an aid package that would help Flint replace corroded pipes and support children and families exposed to led. Stalled negotiations on that package led the Senate to shelve a bipartisan energy bill for at least two weeks.
Also, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced Wednesday that Michigan can use federal dollars it receives through the Women, Infants and Children nutrition program to test the blood lead levels of Flint residents in the program. About 3,800 WIC participants could be tested.
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