Monday, October 24, 2022

Benton Harbor Water Crisis : A One Year Retrospective

EGLE and MDHHS continue to avoid having public, transparent community meetings to explain the orgins, progress, and riskof the water crisis to residents. Although filters use was not advisable, when EGLE could not confirm Benton Harborwas meeting requirments at the water treatment plant, EGLE AND mdhhs still have not made it, unequivocally clear that residents need to continue to drink bottled water or use a filter in their home for at 6 months after lead service line replacement as recommended by the USEPA and required in the Lead and Copper Rule Revisions in all communities. Corrosion control treatment and a corrosion control study, which was EGLE's focus back in 2018, when the lead action level exceedances started, has all but disappeared from consciousness despite the fact that lead in household plumbing remains even after lead service line are replaced. This remaining lead can be an ongoing source of lead exposure, expeccially when appropriate corroosion control treatment is not used. But EGLE never revised the study to address household sources of lead. The only study completed focused on lead service lines, the last one which is expected to be removed in the next few weeks. EGLE never required Benton Harbor to send public notice to the community about the variety of violations that had been identified in those inspections, some of which go back as far as 2011, when the community should have first been notified. When they finally issued some of the information in June 2022, hidden in the back of annual water quality report, the information presented raised many more questions than it answered. EGLE still hasn't responded to a list of questions and concerns raised about poor notice about these violations that didn't get the same attention as the initial lead crisis. The ongoing lack of transparency, community engagement, and clear information about what water is safe to drink(answer:bottled water or water from a certified lead reducing filter) in this community that has spent the last year in the spot light make us wonder- what is happening in communities that we don't know are having a water crisis? If this is what happens when all eyes are on EGLE, what assurance do we have that EGLE is doing their job in the rest of Michigan communities? We are grateful that Benton Harbor is finally getting the attention it deserves. We hope we can ride the momentum of Benton Harbor Community Water Council in getting the lead serves lines out to making the additional change EGLE needs to do right by this community. (1) First and most urgently EGLE and MDHHS need to provide clear information that residents should continue to use bottled water or filters 6 months after lead service line are removed. (2) Real public meeting that engage the community invite the media, and educate on what has happened in Benton Harbor and what is yet to come, especially with the consolidation report that is slated to be released in October. (3)EGLE needs to respond to questions about the water treatment process providing transparent information that demonstrates that the water treatment plant is reliably in compliance with all SDWA requirements. (4)EGLE should engage with concerned residents and experts transparently and with data. Assurances they are doing "everything they can". (5 Real public notice about the extent of violations at the water treatment plant and what this means. presented in plain language, not regulatory jargon that assure residents. They would have been informed in a timely manner if this had been a real emergency. There was a real emergency and EGLE DID NOT DO ENOUGH.