The Natural Resources Defense Council and the Great Lakes Environmental Law Center respond to Michigan EGLE's announcement that it's taking action in the Benton Harbor water crisis.
The Benton Harbor citizens who asked the U.S. EPA to intervene were supported by NRDC and GLELC activists and attorneys.
Here, they respond to EGLE's action announced yesterday, September 23.
GLELC Executive Director, Nick Leonard
Leonard said EGLE's program is a "good start" but he wants more details before he can assess its effectiveness. He wants details about the bottled water distribution program including how much water will be available for each home and for how long.
Leonard also questioned the reliance on filters which are a key component of the EGLE plan. A study in Newark showed that filters still allowed unacceptable levels of lead to flow through. He also wants the citizens who will do community outreach and education assistance based on the EGLE plan to be compensated. "These residents are providing a service and we believe they should be compensated for it," Leonard said.
NRDC Michigan Senior Policy Advocate, Cyndi Roper
Roper said people's "trust has been violated" and drinking water has not been safe for at least three years," the Detroit Free Press reported. She referred to Flint where there were ongoing issues related to filter maintenance and proper use. "A swing through the community dropping off filters and having a conversation about filter use" isn't enough, she said.
Roper also questioned the the fixed-date cutoff of bottled water saying it needs to continue until "we are well beyond clearly demonstrating these filters are effective."
Updated 9/23 , 7:00 p.m. cdt. Additional comments from Cyndi Roper
Additionally, Roper said the petitioners are still requesting that EPA take emergency action because the State of Michigan is not protecting the people of Benton Harbor from lead in drinking water.
"Further, the Governor has not declared an emergency and has not instructed residents to stop drinking the water despite at least three years with high lead levels. It is beyond comprehension," Roper said.
A little context here.
In the Flint water crisis, NRDC petitioned the EPA to use its emergency authority to intervene as Michigan's DEQ, now EGLE, was failing. EPA declined to intervene saying it was monitoring DEQ's action. That was after taking two months to make a decision. It ultimately did intervene but valuable time was lost.
Asked about making a decision on whether to intervene in Benton Harbor, EPA said this morning that it is "still in the process of reviewing the petition and don’t have an additional update at this time."
Chicago-based environmental journalist