BENTON HARBOR — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s proposal to offer Benton Harbor $20 million to interchange lead water service strains within the metropolis over the subsequent 5 years is nice, however not sufficient, mentioned Jill Ryan, government director of Freshwater Future based mostly in Petoskey.
“5 years remains to be a very long time. The residents want fast help to get entry to filters and clear ingesting water,” she mentioned when contacted by telephone Thursday.
Freshwater Future was considered one of 20 organizations that filed a petition Thursday with the U.S. Environmental Safety Company for emergency motion below the federal Secure Ingesting Water Act.
The 35-page petition states that residents “proceed to dwell with vital and harmful ranges of lead contamination three years after the contamination was first found with no fast resolution in sight.”
Benton Harbor has been required to check its ingesting water each six months since October 2018, when routine testing discovered that the quantity of lead within the ingesting water of sampled houses exceeded the motion stage of 15 elements per billion (ppb).
The petition states that over the previous three years, the town and the Michigan Division of Atmosphere, Nice Lakes, and Vitality (EGLE) have didn’t take well timed motion to appropriate the issue.
Even low ranges of lead within the blood of kids can lead to “habits and studying issues, decrease IQ and hyperactivity, slowed development, listening to issues and anemia,” the petition states.
Although officers have put in corrosion management programs on the metropolis’s water plant, Ryan mentioned the quantity of lead within the faucet water has elevated over the previous three years. Throughout corrosion management, chemical substances are added to the water to coat lead pipes so lead doesn’t leak from them.
She mentioned that is essential as a result of even after all the metropolis’s water service strains are changed, there may nonetheless be lead plumbing inside the home.
“Changing the lead service strains will scale back the quantity of lead within the water, however gained’t remedy the issue,” she mentioned.
Metropolis officers have repeatedly mentioned the water leaving the town’s water plant has no lead in it, that means the lead is coming from water service strains or from the plumbing inside the home.
An ongoing effort
Municipalities have traditionally solely been required to interchange lead water strains as much as the property line of a residence.
As of Jan. 1, municipalities are required to pay to interchange the lead service strains up to some inches inside the home.
The petition lists a number of motion steps that it says have to be taken. They embody that residents be given technical and monetary assets so that they have a free supply of protected ingesting water and that the EPA make grants accessible to the town to help in getting protected ingesting water to residents.
Additionally listed on the petition was the Benton Harbor Neighborhood Water Council, led by Edward Pinkney of Benton Township.
“Whereas we thank Gov. (Gretchen) Whitmer for the $20 million to interchange Benton Harbor’s lead service strains, the lead in water scenario in Benton Harbor is and has been for the previous three years a dire emergency,” he mentioned in a information launch. “We have now watched our kids, family members, and my fellow group members be subjected to excessive lead in water ranges. It has been a wrestle to get our water utility to correctly check and defend the group from these excessive ranges of lead.”
Whitmer proposes $20M for lead pipe elimination in Benton Harbor
Nick Leonard, the chief director of the Nice Lakes Environmental Legislation Middle, mentioned his group has tried to intervene beforehand to no avail.
“Quite a few petitioners met with of us at EGLE in late 2019 to speak about issues we thought had been problematic with their response,” Leonard mentioned within the launch. “And their reply on the time was, issues are below management, lead ranges are taking place, we’ve obtained this. And that merely wasn’t the case.”
Leonard mentioned in latest sampling intervals, lead ranges have been greater than within the preliminary lead exceedance within the fall of 2018.
“There’s been … an absence of urgency, an absence of response that we discovered actually troubling,” he mentioned. “Benton Harbor residents have been dwelling with this for much too lengthy.”
Whitmer’s plan, which was introduced Wednesday, consists of increasing this system that already exists the place metropolis residents are in a position to get free water filters and cartridges from the Berrien County Well being Division to filter out lead of their water.