Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib visits Benton Harbor as part of Get the Lead Out tour

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BENTON HARBOR, Mi. -- Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib spoke to residents and activists at Benton Harbor High School, as the city continues working to make its water drinkable for everyone. 

The US Representative helped form the Get the Lead Out Caucus, a bi-partisan effort to remove all of the nation's lead pipes-- a measure that would cost $60 billion. 

“Water is a human right," she said. "No resident in our country—the wealthiest country in the world—should ever be footing the bill of doing nothing this long.”

But before that happens-- Tlaib, other members of the caucus and members of the House Energy and Commerce Committe are touring several Michigan cities still dealing with lead contamination in their water. 

Tlaib said meeting with activists like Rev. Edward Pinkney-- President of the Benton Harbor Community Water Council-- and Gwen Swanigan, who've both been on the front lines raising awareness to the community, is an important step in learning how to address future crises. 

“You can’t really solve an issue until if you don’t really know how deep that problem is," Tlaib said, "We can learn what not to do from Benton Harbor, or Hamtramck and other communities.”

Rev. Pinkney himself commended the relative swiftness in which the lead issue has been addressed in Benton Harbor, but he warns that the long-term health effects from communities consuming tainted water for years cannot be overlooked. 

“We have to take the time out and make sure that this never ever happens to any other city," Rev. Pinkney said. "We’ve got to be pro-active in doing the water tests, and stop being in denial. It’s not a crime to not know the water’s bad, but you should know if you’re the mayor. You should know if you’re the governor. You should know these things because they’re dangerous. They can destroy a whole city if we allow it.”

Congresswoman Tlaib said that $60 billion estimate is based on a nationwide estimate of the country's known lead pipes. 

She warns that the number could increase as cities start to do necessary testing to determine whether or not they have lead water pipes in their infrastructure. 


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