Legislator leads House Oversight discussion on Benton Harbor water crisis
House Oversight Committee Chairman Steve Johnson (R-Wayland) today said a committee hearing on elevated lead levels in Benton Harbor’s drinking water illuminated serious safety concerns for the community while the governor’s administration ignored pleas from city officials for more funding to help fix the problem.
For the first time publicly, Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy Director Liesl Clark acknowledged to the committee that water in Benton Harbor is not safe to drink. That announcement led Johnson and other committee members to explore why the water crisis is coming to the forefront now even though lead safety violations and faulty corrosion control treatments have occurred over multiple years.
Benton Harbor Mayor Marcus Muhammad testified that he previously contacted administration officials underscoring the need for more funding for pipe replacement in each of the past three budget years. For the 2019 Fiscal Year budget, Benton Harbor received a $248,000 appropriation. For the previous two state budgets, Benton Harbor did not receive a specific appropriation.
Johnson said not including the funding in previous budget recommendations made it clear the request had been ignored by Whitmer’s administration as the crisis was unfolding. The Legislature recently approved $10 million in funding to improve the city’s water system in a budget measure that was signed by the governor. The funding is a down payment to get repairs started in an urgent fashion, and negotiations continue for additional needed funding for Benton Harbor in future supplemental budgets.
“Everyone in Michigan should have access to clean drinking water,” Johnson said. “We wanted to provide people with a platform to have a robust discussion to see how we got to this point. The Legislature made this issue a priority and delivered funding in the budget to start replacing lines. The problem is that it took two years to shed some light on this – even while the signs of a problem were there in the form of lead testing and calls for support from local officials to members of the governor’s administration.”
A collection of environmental and residential groups representing the city recently filed an emergency petition with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to receive assistance. The petition noted three straight years of tests that exceeded allowable lead levels.
Johnson said the House Oversight Committee will continue to investigate the crisis going forward.
Members of the Michigan House and Senate oversight committees, including House Oversight Committee Chairman Steve Johnson (R-Wayland), on Tuesday will meet with newly appointed state Unemployment Insurance Agency Director Julia Dale and officials from the state Auditor General’s office to discuss a recent audit detailing mistakes made by the agency. The state Auditor General examined […]
House Oversight Committee Chairman Rep. Steve Johnson says that Thursday’s Auditor General’s report on almost $4 billion in overpayments by the Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency during the pandemic reflect a failure by the Whitmer administration and ineptitude and ineffectiveness on the part of the UIA.
House Oversight Committee Chairman Rep. Steve Johnson looks ahead to a joint hearing Tuesday, November 30, with his committee and the Senate Oversight Committee to hear from the Michigan Auditor General’s office on their report on the Unemployment Insurance Agency. Rep. Johnson says the UIA made almost $4 billion in overpayments during the pandemic and […]
House Oversight Committee Chair Steve Johnson (R-Wayland) today said findings from the state Auditor General show the state’s Unemployment Insurance Agency made key errors that prolonged confusion and anxiety for many throughout Michigan as they tried to get needed assistance.