Sat. Jan 22nd, 2022

The move from the federal agency comes about two weeks after the Benton Harbor City Commission voted to declare a state of emergency over the stained water.
“The people of Benton Harbor have been suffering for too long. The EPA is fully committed and working to support the community, and today we are taking a critical next step to ensure that drinking water is safe and reliable,” said EPA Administrator Michael Regan in a press release Tuesday.

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer said last month that the city’s water system “has failed to live up to the regulatory standard for lead” for six consecutive sampling periods over the past three years.

Benton Harbor, which borders Lake Michigan on the western edge of the state, is about 85% black and is home to nearly 10,000 people.

In October, government officials advised residents to use bottled water instead of tap water for activities including cooking, drinking and brushing teeth, in what officials said was part of “a long-term effort to eliminate violations of federal lead standards, educate society about the effects” of lead in drinking water, remove lead pipes and increase confidence in filtered tap water. “

The EPA directive requires the city to take more steps to protect its residents while addressing the source of lead pollution, according to the agency’s press release.

These steps include:

  • Inform residents when lead excesses are detected in drinking water
  • Improving the use of chlorine for disinfection and orthophosphate for corrosion control
  • Implementation of stricter requirements for monitoring residual disinfectants and by-products
  • Performing filter repairs on the water treatment plant
  • Use of an independent third party to evaluate alternatives to long-term operation and maintenance of the system

“Exposure to lead in children can cause irreversible and lifelong health effects, including declining IQ, focus, and academic achievement,” Regan said. “The water infrastructure at Benton Harbor, like many cities across the country, needs upgrades and investment to build resilience and protect people from lead.”

The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy is taking separate measures to address state law violations, according to the EPA.

Benton Harbor Water Filtration Plant Monday, October 25th.

State of emergency

The EPA said it is also working with the state to provide bottled water to residents.

Between Sept. 30 and Oct. 20, officials distributed more than 71,000 bottles of bottled water across the city, according to a Michigan Department of Health & Human Services press release.

Local officials have said they imposed a state of emergency on October 18 to get the attention of politicians in Washington, DC.

Mary Alice Adams, chief commissioner, told CNN at the time that federal officials “may not be aware of the extent of this type of problem that is happening in communities across the country.”

Benton Harbor, Michigan, declares state of emergency due to contaminated water

“While fighting for our infrastructure bill, we live in a state of four seasons, and with winter weather close at hand, it can be so devastating at times,” she said. “We need to know that FEMA, the National Guard, will be here for us.”

Whitmer visited the city last month and called on the state’s Republican-led lawmaker to provide an additional $ 11.4 million to replace the city’s pipes, according to a press release from her office.

The governor has previously committed to replace 100% of lead pipes in the city within 18 months.

“Our work will build on the executive directive I signed last week to pursue an all-encompassing approach to protecting access to safe drinking water right now and making lasting investments in water infrastructure,” Whitmer said in its 19 release. October.

Volunteers distribute bottled water to residents of the Abundant Life Church of God in Benton Harbor, Michigan, on Tuesday, October 19th.
She also requested that federal funding be allocated to Michigan under the U.S. rescue plan.

The state estimates it will cost about $ 30 million to replace all lead pipes in Benton Harbor, according to the governor’s office.

So far, the state has been able to secure a total of $ 18.6 million, with $ 10 million coming from next year’s budget, $ 3 million from the Michigan Clean Water Plan and a $ 5.6 million grant from the EPA.

The governor’s press release said $ 15 million of the state’s 2022 budget will be used to supply residents with bottled water and for “other key uses.”

CNN’s Elizabeth Joseph and Kelly McCleary contributed to this report.


By Victor

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