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Audit: Michigan Agriculture Department Not Following Regulations On Bottled Water

Bottled Water
Steven DePolo

A new audit shows a state department is not in compliance with regulations on bottled water inspections. 

A Michigan department needs to do more to follow its own regulations on bottled water inspection.  That was the message of an audit released Wednesday by the Office of the Auditor General.  The report found that the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) did not always perform timely inspections of water bottles and places with water dispensing machines. 

MDARD is in charge of registering and inspecting water bottles and water dispensing machines in the state.  Organizations that want to produce and sell bottled water in the state must get approval for the water source from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and obtain a food establishment license from MDARD.

Jennifer Holtonis with the agriculture department.  She said they are already taking steps to fix the problem as the department gets more resources.   

“We identified this as a possible issue back in 2013 and have been working steadfastly in inspection frequencies, to make improvements, as part of a multi-year phase in,” she said.

Liz Kirkwood is with the Great Lakes water law and policy center, For Love of Water.  She said with bottled water sales now outnumbering soda, this is an important issue to keep an eye on. 

“This issue of bottled water is very complex,” she said.  “Because we are seeing increasing stories across the country beyond Flint where the public is concerned about the safety of municipal water.”

The audit also says there could be undetected contamination issues if the state doesn’t put procedures in place to ensure that water from dispensers is periodically tested for water quality standards.  

“We didn’t meet our own policy standards, but there weren’t any laws violated,” Holton said.  “Food safety and protecting public health is the hallmark of our department.”

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—Cheyna Roth is a reporter for the Michigan Public Radio network.  Contact WEMU News at734.487.3363 or email us at studio@wemu.org

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