Democrats in the state Legislature want to establish water as a “human right” under state law. It’s part of a package of bills meant to address tap water contamination and mass water shutoffs in cities like Flint and Detroit.
“What we’re seeing is a complete disregard for human life, human safety, and the future of our children,” said Melissa Mays, a Flint resident who says her entire family has health problems because of contaminated water.
The sponsor of the bill to recognize water as a human right admits that measure would be largely symbolic.
“Are there teeth behind this bill? Possibly not,” said state Rep. Julie Plawecki (D-Dearborn Heights).
“But at least we’re making the statement that everybody in Michigan has a right to those things.”
Other bills in the package, which also has support from at least two Republicans, aim to improve water testing practices and increase transparency about water rates and shutoffs. They would also remove criminal penalties for people who illegally reconnect their homes to water lines.
“Our bills will not only protect our residents but all Michiganders, because what has happened in our cities could happen anywhere in our state,” said state Rep. Stephanie Chang (D-Detroit).
The bills’ future in the Republican-dominated Legislature is not clear.