Foul tap water in Benton Harbor

November 19, 2021

From the November-December 2021 issue of News & Letters

Benton Harbor, Mich.—Benton Harbor is a city of approximately 10,000 people, 85% of whom are African-American, near the southwest corner of Michigan on the shore of Lake Michigan. In 2018, tap water samples showed lead levels of 22 parts per billion. The federal lead action level is 15 parts per billion.

The water in Flint, Mich., had lead levels of 20 parts per billion at the height of the water crisis there. Samples from Benton Harbor have had lead levels as high as 889 parts per billion! Rev. Edward Pinkney, who leads the Benton Harbor Community Water Council, said that, before the testing in 2018, residents had complained of yellow and foul water from their taps.

On Sept. 9, 2021, a coalition of 20 environmental and advocacy organizations filed a petition with the federal Environmental Protection Agency urging federal intervention. Benton Harbor has obtained a $5.9 million EPA grant for lead line replacement and a corrosion control study. Governor Whitmer is proposing spending $20 million to replace lead pipes in Benton Harbor.

—Dan B.

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