This research will provide an estimate of the economic benefits of replacing the estimated 460,000 lead service lines in Michigan.
FLINT, Mich. — Led by Michigan State University pediatrician Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, a multidisciplinary team from MSU and Hurley Children’s Hospital’s Pediatric Public Health Initiative, Safe Water Engineering, and Altarum will conduct a detailed analysis of the economic costs and benefits of implementing the 2018 Lead and Copper Rule that directs Michigan’s utilities to replace all lead service lines by 2041. The results of the study, funded by the CS Mott Foundation, will be available in Spring 2020.
“We all know that lead is a potent poison with no safe level. Yet for too many Michigan children, lead service lines are the straw that delivers their drinking water,” said Hanna-Attisha, MD, MPH, associate professor of pediatrics and human development at MSU College of Human Medicine. “This research will add the economic benefits of lead service line replacement to the already well-established health and development benefits of lead elimination and will hopefully serve to more swiftly and thoroughly implement the Michigan Lead and Copper Rule.”
This analysis will build on research Altarum conducted for the Pew Charitable Trusts in 2017, 10 Policies to Prevent and Respond to Childhood Lead Exposure, which includes a cost-benefit analysis of various policies to prevent and respond to childhood lead exposure, including removing lead drinking water service lines. The analysis showed that targeted removal of residential lead water service lines nationwide could provide long-term economic returns that exceed the costs of replacing the lines.
Earlier this year, Altarum released state-level estimates of the costs and economic benefits of replacing 18,700 lead service lines in one year, about 4% of the estimated total in Michigan. This work showed that targeted lead service line replacement in Michigan would provide a net economic benefit of more than $48 million and yield a return of $1.4 per dollar invested. Altarum generated these state-level results using its economic evaluation tools, including the Value of HealthSM, and they are currently available online at ValueofLeadPrevention.org.
On the heels of the Flint water crisis, Michigan adopted the most stringent Lead and Copper Rule in the country, mandating improved lead in water testing, creation of lead service line inventories, replacement of lead pipes, and improved public notification. “Now that water utilities throughout the state are implementing the new sampling requirements, they are finding higher lead levels in the water,” said Elin Betanzo, a water quality expert at Safe Water Engineering. “This demonstrates the importance of identifying and removing lead service lines as required in the new rule.” Current estimates put the total number of lead service lines in Michigan at 460,000.
The forthcoming analysis will assess the 2018 Michigan Lead and Copper Rule, provide a more detailed economic assessment of comprehensive lead service line replacement in Michigan, and inform plans to replace the state’s lead service lines.
“Some have argued that the cost of replacing lead service lines is too high, but the data tell us the opposite: the cost of not replacing them is much higher,” said George Miller, a research fellow at Altarum. “Our research will provide even more detailed estimates of the long-term economic benefits of lead service line replacement for Michigan that policymakers can use to ensure future generations are protected against lead exposure.”
About MSU-Hurley Children’s Hospital Pediatric Public Health Initiative
Founded and led by Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, the Pediatric Public Health Initiative was established in 2016. Through community and clinical programs, childhood health policy and advocacy, and robust evaluation, the Pediatric Public Health Initiative works with many partners, as a center of excellence, with the primary goal of mitigating the impact of the Flint water crisis and serving as a national resource for best practices. For more information visit: msuhurleypphi.org.
Altarum is a nonprofit organization that works with public and private insurers, provider organizations, and foundations to improve health of vulnerable and publicly insured populations. Altarum achieves measurable results by combining public health and health care delivery domain expertise with applied research and analytics, technology, continuing education, advisory services, and program implementation. Our innovative solutions lead to better value and better health for all. Learn more about our mission and impact at Altarum.org and on Twitter at @Altarum.
About Safe Water Engineering
Safe Water Engineering, founded by water quality expert Elin Betanzo, specializes in drinking water quality; providing technical assistance to water utilities; and policy analysis at federal, state, and local levels. Safe Water Engineering works with drinking water utilities to address concerns about lead in drinking water and comply with state and federal Lead and Copper Rules. Read more at SafeWaterEngineering.com.