State Watch

Michigan orders ‘all-hands-on-deck’ response to water crisis

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer
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Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) said on Thursday that elevated levels of lead in tap water in the southwestern part of the state would require an “all-hands-on-deck, whole-of-government approach.”

Whitmer issued an executive order to allocate federal, state and local resources to expeditiously replace all of the lead service lines in Benton Harbor in the next 18 months. 

The governor’s directive also called for access to free bottled water indefinitely and for free or low-cost services, like health care, needed because of the lead contamination.

“I cannot imagine the stress that moms and dads in Benton Harbor are under as they emerge from a pandemic, work hard to put food on the table, pay the bills, and face a threat to the health of their children,” Whitmer said. “We will not rest until the job is done and every parent feels confident to give their kid a glass of water knowing that it is safe.” 

Whitmer’s order comes about a week after her administration faced criticism for failing to act quickly enough to address increased levels of lead in tap water in Benton Harbor, The Associated Press reported. 

“Whitmer and her administration’s inaction in addressing this issue is yet another failed promise to add to the growing list and this one comes with catastrophic implications for the residents of Benton Harbor,” said Gustavo Portela, spokesman for the state GOP.

The crisis parallels the contaminated drinking water crisis in Flint, Mich that drew national attention seven years ago. Benton Harbor is also a largely low-income, Black community, with lead levels well over the federal threshold for government action, the AP reported.

Former Republican Gov. Rick Snyder, Whitmer’s predecessor, currently faces criminal charges of willful neglect after the crisis in Flint, which was linked to at least 12 deaths and at least 80 people sickened with Legionnaires’ disease. 

Managers that Snyder appointed attempted to save money by changing the water source and state regulators advised the city against applying anti-corrosive treatments to public water pipes, the AP noted.

Tags Benton Harbor Gretchen Whitmer

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