Rep. Upton seeks answers from EPA on Benton Harbor drinking water crisis

U.S. Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI) is seeking further assistance from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to help tackle a serious drinking water crisis in Benton Harbor, Mich., where roughly 6,000 waterpipes fail to meet federal lead standards and must be replaced.

In a Nov. 5 letter to EPA Administrator Michael Regan, Rep. Upton and U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI) sought answers about the agency’s work to remedy the problem, emphasizing the need for increased water testing and further assistance.  

“The City of Benton Harbor is home to about 10,000 Michiganders—the vast majority are African American, and all of whom have been without clean drinking for far too long,” the letter said. “In some areas, lead levels have shown to be nearly sixty times the federal standard. This is simply not acceptable. Clean water is not a luxury; it is a basic necessity for every American family,” the lawmakers wrote.

Reps. Upton and Dingell requested a summary of the EPA’s work with Michigan’s Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy, and a record of resources that the EPA has provided to the city and state for bottled water, water filters, and lead line replacement. The members are seeking information to determine exactly what is needed moving forward, including an EPA study on water filter efficacy in Benton Harbor. 

Rep. Upton helped secure $5.6 million in federal funds that will go toward replacing lead water pipes to Benton Harbor homes and businesses, the congressman’s office said. Those funds started being deployed this week.

“We look forward to a full and prompt response and stand ready to work with federal, state, and local officials, as well as all other stakeholders across the Benton Harbor community, to ensure the water is safe to drink,” the letter to the EPA said.