For 50 years, the Ecology Center—an Environmental Council member group—has eliminated dangerous substances that infiltrate our daily lives.
But the work became worryingly personal for Rebecca Meuninck, its deputy director, when lead was found in the drinking water of Ann Arbor School District. Her son went there.
Lead poisoning lowers IQ, raises hyperactivity, reduces impulse control, and can lead to diseases in adulthood. In effect, the schools meant to set children up for success were simultaneously, unknowingly keeping them from reaching their few potentials, in the present and future.
And Ann Arbor was not alone. Of the 114 Michigan schools and childcare facilities that voluntarily submitted water testing data to the state, 71% had lead levels above the legal filtered limit. No amount is safe.
Fortunately, parents like Meuninck and Ann Arbor School District officials acted. They began installing lead-filtering drinking water stations across the district, effectively eliminating lead's threat. The method was effective, quick, and cost-effective.
But not all school districts and childcare centers have the funding nor the ability to install lead filters. That's why the Ecology Center, the Environmental Council and other environmental, health, and education groups formed the Filter First coalition.
The Filter First method
At home, water always circulates. We brush our teeth, drink water, and flush toilets. At schools, there are always breaks in circulation—on the weekends, over holidays, through the summer. During those breaks, water sits stagnant, wearing off chemicals that keep lead at bay. Making matters worse: many schools were built before lead was banned in most products, and even more modern water systems are prone to lead leaching.
The Filter First approach circumvents these issues. Using an NRDC policy template, it calls for installing lead filters on taps and lead-filtering drinking water stations in schools and childcare centers. These methods are much quicker, simpler, and cost-effective to install and replace than pipes.
Since its formation in 2018, the Filter First coalition has successfully:
- Worked with former Sens. Jim Ananich (D-Flint) and Curt VanderWall (R-Ludington) to introduce legislation to get lead filters installed and maintained in all school and childcare centers
- Passed said legislation through the Michigan Senate with only one "no" vote
- Secured $50 million in state funding to offset the cost of filter installation
You can read the language of the Filter First bills here: Senate Bill 184, 185, and 565.
Join the coalition
Want to join the Filter First coalition? We welcome nonprofits, businesses, associations, school districts, parent-teacher organizations, and professionals to help us make Filter First law.
Email Environmental Council Chief Policy Officer Charlotte Jameson ([email protected]) with the subject line "Filter First coalition request." Include your name, your organization's name, its mission, and why you'd like to join.
If you're accepted, you'll be added to an email listserv and invited to join strategy sessions, check-in meetings, and campaign efforts.
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