Seven years from the Flint water crisis in Michigan, which started in April 2014 to February 2019 and have exposed 100,000 of its residents, including children, to high lead levels from its drinking water and possibly legionella (Denchak, 2018), another water-related incident broke into another city in Michigan.
Benton Harbour, Michigan, has been suffering from lead-contaminated water for at least three years, but there is insufficient action from the state and local officials.
In 2018, its tap water was contaminated by 22parts per billion (ppb), higher than the safe federal levels of 15 ppb and even higher than Flint’s at the height of its water crises. But when it comes to lead contamination, no level of lead exposure is considered safe (Lutz & McCormick, 2021).
Lutz & McCormick (2021) mention:
Local activities headed by Rev. Edward Pinkney called for a state of emergency and, together with the Natural Resources Defence Council, filed an emergency appeal to the EPA.
The EPA’s involvement has sped up actions from the state to address the health emergency. The petition has also prompted the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) to bring a water filter to every home in Benton Harbor and provide bottled water to residents.
Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed a $10 million budget to replace lead lines in the city. However, under the proposal, it will take five years to remove all lead pipes, which would need more assistance from the federal funding, to which President Joe Biden’s infrastructure bill will prove helpful.
Meanwhile, residents couldn’t wait five years to remove all pipes and would want to speed up the process. As Rev Pinkey puts it, “just think about if your children were living in Benton Harbor – would you allow this?” and to the government official, he says, “Look at Benton Harbor, and do the right thing”
On a positive note this October, the Water World news headline heralds, “MI awards $14M in Clean Water Grants throughout state.”
According to the announcement, the grant will be issued through the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) under the umbrella of the MI Clean Water plan, which will support replacing lead service lines, improving water affordability, and connecting homes to safe community water supplies. The grant will be given to 28 different cities, villages, and townships for clean drinking water.
The MI Clean Water plan is a $500 million investment to rebuild its water infrastructure to help provide clean, affordable water to Michiganders through community investments ( MI awards $14M, 2021).
The plan includes proposals to replace service lines in low-income communities, appropriation for a drinking water infrastructure, asset management grants, and help communities improve their wastewater and stormwater plans ( MI awards $14M, 2021).
EGLE director Liesl Clark welcomes the needed clean water grants in Michigan and, no doubt, its residents who have suffered through unsafe drinking water for many years.
“The old saying ‘an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure’ is no more evident than in the aging water systems in communities across Michigan,” said Clark. Adding that “today’s investment will help ensure that these towns and cities maintain safe, reliable water for Michigan residents into the future.”
Denchak, M. (2018, November 8). Flint Water Crisis: Everything You Need to Know. NRDC. Retrieved from https://www.nrdc.org/stories/flint-water-crisis-everything-you-need-know
Lutz, E. & McCormick, E. (2021, October 12). Michigan tells majority-Black city not to drink tap water amid lead crisis. The Guardian. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2021/oct/12/benton-harbor-michigan-lead-contaminated-water-plan
MI awards $14M in Clean Water Grants throughout state. (2021, October 14). Water World. Retrieved from https://www.waterworld.com/drinking-water/infrastructure-funding/press-release/14212097/mi-awards-14m-in-clean-water-grants-throughout-state