EPA Issues Safe Drinking Water Act to Benton Harbor

Earlier this month, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) (Washington, D.C., USA) issued an order under the federal Safe Drinking Water Act to the city of Benton Harbor, Michigan, USA, based on violations and deficiencies found during a recent, joint federal-state inspection of the water system. The federal order sets out the steps necessary for the city to bring its water system into compliance to assure proper operations and to protect residents from exposure to lead. The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy has also taken a separate action to address violations of state law as part of its ongoing state enforcement action.

“The people of Benton Harbor have suffered for too long. 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,” says EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan. “Exposure to lead in children can cause irreversible and life-long health effects, including decreasing IQ, focus, and academic achievement. The water infrastructure in Benton Harbor, like many cities across the country, needs upgrades and investments to build resiliency and protect people from lead.”

The Safe Drinking Water Act provides the EPA with broad authority to protect public health. EPA’s SDWA Section 1414 order requires the city to take several actions to protect residents in Benton Harbor, including:

  • Informing consumers when lead action level exceedances are detected in drinking water
  • Improving the application of chlorine for disinfection and orthophosphate for corrosion control
  • Implementing stricter requirements for better monitoring of residual disinfectants and its byproducts
  • Making filter repairs at the treatment plant
  • Using an independent third party to conduct an analysis of alternatives for the long-term operation and maintenance of the system

The EPA’s involvement has been instrumental to driving recent actions to ensure people are safe and healthy. This includes working closely with the state of Michigan and providing oversight and support of their efforts to address the immediate and pressing needs of the community, including providing bottled water. In addition, the EPA recently awarded $5.6 million to Benton Harbor under a Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) Act grant for lead service line replacement, along with a corrosion control study. The agency is working with Michigan’s state agencies, the City of Benton Harbor, and the drinking water system on medium- and long-term solutions, which are essential to ensuring the health and well-being of residents in the community.

Through its oversight role, the EPA is also offering the city the services of a compliance advisor to provide direct, one-on-one technical assistance to the system operator. The agency makes compliance advisors available to small, under-resourced drinking water systems nationwide that may lack sufficient expertise.

For more information, visit: https://www.epa.gov/mi/benton-harbor-drinking-water.

Source: EPA News Releases, www.epa.gov/newsreleases.