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Lawsuit: Whitmer used code to discuss Michigan lead crisis

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(The Center Square) – A lawsuit claims Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer used encrypted Greek letters to discuss the Benton Harbor, Michigan water lead crisis.

The suit filed in the Western District of Michigan claims government officials knew about harmful levels of lead in Benton Harbor’s water supply since 2018 but didn’t warn residents or provide bottled water until three years later.

“Indeed, much of the conduct by government officials that the Sixth Circuit found plausibly shocked the conscience in Flint – e.g., covering up, downplaying, doing nothing while knowing residents were in danger, lying to the public, etc. – occurred in Benton Harbor as well,” the lawsuit says.

The lawsuit claims local government officials lied to residents about whether their water was safe to drink since 2018 for the roughly 9,000-person, majority-Black town.

“For example, despite having clear information that there were increasing levels of lead in Benton Harbor’s municipal water, State and City Defendants lied to residents that the tap water was safe and recommended remediation measures that they knew were ineffective,” the lawsuit says.

The lawsuit says Whitmer communicated with her consultant using English words that correspond to Greek letters. The consultant warned Whitmer with the following message:

“Hot off the presses. As I warned there are some major red flags. It seems like we are back at square one having not learned from Flint.”

The lawsuit blames select government officials for “causing, concealing, covering up, and prolonging” the Benton Harbor water crisis.

“The State officials responsible for causing, concealing, covering up, and prolonging the water crisis are Governor Gretchen Whitmer; Michigan Environment, Great Lakes & Energy (EGLE) Director Liesl Clark; EGLE Drinking Water Unit Director Eric Oswald; Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, (MDHHS) Robert Gordon; and MDHHS Director Elizabeth Hertel,” the lawsuit says.

Whitmer’s office hasn’t responded to a request for comment.

The complaint says Benton Harbor’s June- September 2018 sampling period revealed water containing up to 60 parts per billion of lead – well above the 15 ppb ceiling – for a 90th percentile measurement of 22 ppb.

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