EPA files an order against city in Benton Harbor water crisis
BENTON HARBOR, Mich. --- The EPA said it found multiple violations of the safe drinking water act, during an inspection of Benton Harbors water system. The agency wants to see sweeping improvements, immediately – while making sure residents aren’t the one’s left with the bill.
The agency has ten areas of concern after conducting the investigation into a Benton Harbor water plant last month.
Issues stemmed from improper records maintenance, inaccurate disinfection processes, and outdated emergency response plans.
The violations show the plant has outdated machinery that led to chemicals spilling into water residents believed to be clean enough to drink.
The city did not relay this information to the health department or to customers on their bills over the past year, which according the EPA, is required.
“The people of Benton Harbor have suffered for too long,” EPA administrator Michael Regan said in a statement. “EPA is fully engaged and working to support the community and today, we are taking a critical next step to ensure that drinking water is safe and reliable.”
The EPA issued an order Tuesday for city and state leaders to get Benton Harbor in line with the safe drinking water act.
The order would require the city to inform consumers when lead is detected in their water, improve disinfection and corrosion control, implement stricter requirements for disinfectants, make filter repairs, and use a third-party to maintain long term operations.
Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes Director Liesl Clark said “This is not intended as a punitive exercise, but rather a transparent way of identifying the pressing needs of the Benton Harbor community so that federal, state, local, and community partners can work together to prioritize them….”
The EPA doesn’t want to see residents required to pay for the improvements to bring the water system up to compliance.
The EPA will provide compliance advisors to help Benton Harbor correct all violations as quickly as possible.