Benton Harbor ordered to protect residents from lead contaminated drinking water

Published: Nov. 2, 2021 at 5:22 PM EDT
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BENTON HARBOR, Mich. (WILX) - Tuesday the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ordered the City of Benton Harbor to take specific steps to get its water system into compliance with federal drinking water law. The action comes months after nearly 20 groups petitioned the EPA to take emergency action.

For many Michigan residents, drinking water contamination is a serious concern. Memories of the Flint water crisis are fresh for many, and the City of Benton Harbor is experiencing it’s own version, with water coming from Benton Harbor’s taps having high levels of lead since 2018.

The State Health Department along with local agencies have been handing out bottled water to residents of Benton Harbor after issuing an advisory that residents not cook with, drink or brush their teeth with the city’s water. Now, the EPA has laid out specific actions the city must take to keep it’s citizens safe.

These include messages that notify residents of danger on their water bill when lead levels exceed a set standard, repairing monitoring devices throughout the water system, stricter requirements for monitoring, upgrades to the filtration system and more.

Nicholas Leonard, Executive Director of Great Lakes Environmental Law Center, said, “Benton Harbor residents have been living with a public water system that has suffered from chronic underinvestment from our federal and state governments and as a result the system has been incapable of providing safe drinking water to residents for far too long. It also begs the question: how many other environmental justice communities have public water systems with similar issues but are being ignored?”

The full order is included below.

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