Safe Water Engineering


Safe Water Engineering LLC was founded by Elin Betanzo to improve access to safe drinking water through engineering and policy consulting.

No Stricter Than Federal is No Good for Michigan

House Bill 4205 would make it harder to pass a regulation in Michigan that is stricter than a federally mandated standard. This means if a federal rule isn’t providing the protection we want here in Michigan, we may not be able to address that with improved state regulation.

There are water quality issues that are important here in Michigan that aren’t getting the same attention at the federal level. For example, algal toxins are a serious concern from harmful algal blooms. A harmful algal bloom shut down the Toledo water system in 2014, along with some of Michigan. There is no federal standard for microcystin. We have per- and polyfluroroalkyl substances in the drinking water here in Michigan and there is no federal standard. This bill will make it more difficult for Michigan to take protective measures when the federal EPA is not. 

Some people say that HB 4205 includes an exception where the director of an agency can determine there is a clear and convincing need to exceed the applicable federal standard. This exception does not fix my concerns about the bill. First, new water quality data that are not being collected today may be necessary to establish a clear and convincing need to exceed the applicable federal standard. If collecting that water data is not required at the federal level, then it can’t be required at the state level if this bill is passed. That would prevent the agency from being able to establish the clear and convincing need to exceed the federal standard.

Second, this bill adds another barrier to passing regulations at the time when they are needed most: when a critical need is identified that is not being addressed at the federal level. The Michigan Administrative Procedures Act already has a complex series of analyses and committee approvals that must be completed before a new rule can be passed. One advantage of the state rulemaking process is that it can be more responsive than the federal process to immediate needs. The EPA typically takes a minimum of 9 years to finalize and implement a new drinking water regulation. If there is a specific risk that we identify here in Michigan that needs to be addressed quickly, the last thing we need is another set of hoops to jump through.

Finally, Michigan needs to keep the ability to take these actions through regulation because our legislators have proven that they are not able to act on critical issues facing our state. We cannot let our dysfunctional state legislature destroy our natural resources and public health.

See the article and news clip from ABC12 in Flint:

Elin Betanzo