Oct 21, 2021 - Health

Michigan city declares state of emergency due to lead-contaminated water

Volunteers distribute bottled water to residents
Volunteers distribute bottled water to residents in Benton Harbor, Michigan, on Oct. 19. Photo: Matthew Hatcher/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Officials in Benton Harbor, Michigan, announced a state of emergency earlier this week in an ongoing effort to replace the city's lead pipes, CNN reports.

Driving the news: The state of emergency, enacted by the City Commission on Monday, was intended to trigger a full-government approach to replace several lead pipes that have contaminated the city's water supply.

  • A water main break occurred in Benton Harbor on Tuesday, ultimately resulting in the loss of water pressure across the city, per the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.
  • As of this week, more than 71,000 cases of free bottled water had been distributed to Benton Harbor residents since the crisis erupted in September, according to the department.
  • Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) called on the state legislature to provide an additional $11.4 million investment to assist in replacing the city's lead pipes.

What they're saying: "We understand that Benton Harbor residents are going through very stressful times," Elizabeth Hertel, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services director, said in a statement.

  • "I want them to know that the state is fully committed to making sure that families have access to clean water," she added.
  • "Every Michigander deserves safe drinking water," Whitmer said in a press release Tuesday. "We will not rest until every parent feels confident to give their kid a glass of water knowing that it is safe."
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