Biden Declares Emergency Over Lead Contamination in US Virgin Islands Water

    Photo: Arlington National Cemetery/Flickr [via Wikimedia Commons]

    The Facts

    • US Pres. Joe Biden has declared an emergency over lead-in-water contamination in the US Virgin Islands this week, after tests on the Caribbean island of St. Croix showed lead levels 100 times above the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) limit, among the worst seen in decades in a US community.

    • The declaration will allow the Federal Emergency Management Agency to identify and supply the resources necessary to mitigate impacts for 90 days, including providing aid with water, testing, and technical assistance related to immediate public health threats.


    The Spin

    Narrative A

    It's unlikely that this situation constitutes an actual emergency. Poor conduct around testing means that lead levels in water samples likely came out artificially high. The testing should have been carried out again before an emergency declaration — which frees up significant funding and resources at public expense — was made.

    Narrative B

    The current water crisis is beyond the capabilities of the territory's infrastructure and services, and federal help is needed in order to avert disaster and save lives. Current circumstances definitely meet the qualifications required to declare an emergency.

    Nerd narrative

    There's a 66% chance that the United States Environmental Protection Agency will pass a PFAS Maximum Contaminant Level rule for all municipal water systems in the United States by January 1, 2030, according to the Metaculus prediction community.


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