State lawmaker proposes mandatory water testing at Michigan schools

Posted at 5:33 PM, Mar 21, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-22 04:05:46-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – When news of the devastating Flint water crisis broke months ago, the Grand Rapids Public School System started thinking about the safety of their water.

“As soon as the whole Flint water crisis blew up last fall, that’s when we said ‘let’s reach out, when was the last time we tested our water?’” said GRPS spokesman John Helmholdt,

So they did, hiring local laboratory Prein & Newhof to conduct tests on water at the district's 52 schools and three administrative buildings. Those results came back to the school this week.

“We received the final results,” said Helmholdt, “and the good news is we passed with flying colors.”

The system met all EPA requirements for clean water in its bathrooms, kitchens and drinking fountains. Testing was cheap – costing only about $3,000 to test all of their facilities.

It’s something GRPS is encouraging all other Michigan school systems to do, and if Republican State Senator Rick Jones has his way, they won’t have a choice.

Sen. Jones recently introduced a bill that would mandate water testing at school systems state wide, using state funds to foot the bill for those tests. He became wary to the dangers of unsafe water in schools when an elementary facility in his district showed levels of lead a short time ago.

“My bill would mandate that every school be checked - all the sources of water that would be consumed in any matter, whether it be drinking a drinking fountain or the kitchen,” said Senator Jones. “There has been some worry about the cost, but I can’t believe we could put a cost on a child’s life.”

Budgeting for this bill is still something that needs to be hashed out. Sen. Jones has heard a wide range of overall budgetary proposals from $213,000 to a couple of million dollars. From there, school systems would work with local health departments to decide how much is needed to effectively conduct water testing at all of their facilities.

“Whatever it costs,” said Sen. Jones, “our children are too precious not make sure that they’re drinking pure water.”

Sen. Jones expects the bill to pass sometime this spring.