Mayor Muhammad, EGLE director ask legislature for $11M to fix pipes

NOW: Mayor Muhammad, EGLE director ask legislature for $11M to fix pipes

Michigan’s House Oversight Committee investigated Benton Harbor’s chronic issue with lead in its water Thursday ahead of its decision whether to allocate more money to fix it.

Benton Harbor Mayor Marcus Muhammad answered questions for the committee and emphasized the need for an additional $11 million to replace all lead service lines within 12 months.

Governor Whitmer has also called on the legislature to approve it. 

The director of Michigan EGLE detailed their involvement since Benton Harbor’s Action Level Exceedance of lead back in 2018 – the first time, they said, since the city started testing in the ‘90s.

After that, EGLE invested in corrosion control at Benton Harbor’s water treatment plant and required routine testing. 

But the big question from lawmakers was why weren’t EGLE or city officials like the mayor more persistent about it needing urgent attention until now. 

“If the water is unsafe to drink, why did we wait until now?,” said Rep. Steven Johnson, Chairman of the House Oversight Committee.

“We didn’t wait until now, what we’ve heard from community leaders is it’s not been enough,” said Liesl Clark, Director of Michigan EGLE.

Rep. Johnson then asked, “So you don’t think the water there is safe?” 

Clark responded, “The State of Michigan wants people to drink bottled water –“

“Come on, let’s just talk like normal people, is the water safe or not?,” said Rep. Johnson. 

“No, it’s not,” said Clark.

Ultimately no decision was made on whether the legislature will approve that $11 million because they ran out of time at the hearing. 

Lawmakers assured Mayor Muhammad though that they will be addressing it.

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