The industry abandoned them. After their flight, the whites were left homeless. There isn’t much money to fix these problems with crumbling infrastructure or failing schools.
This community of low-income black residents, less than two hours away from Chicago on Lake Michigan’s southeast shore, has been plagued by disasters for decades.
Drinking water is unsafe now.
A top state official advised residents of Benton Harbor last month to drink bottled water, and to cook. Three years later tests were conducted under the Michigan law to determine that tap water contains high levels lead. This can be dangerous for the brain.
Another example of hidden dangers is the discovery of lead pipes known as service lines that were installed in cities throughout the United States to provide drinking water. Chicago is at the center of the problem—the city has 400,000 lead service lines, more than anywhere else in the country—but as states pay closer attention to aging water supplies, the scope of the hazard becomes clearer.
Eric Olsen from the Natural Resources Defense Council, an advocacy and legal non-profit that represents Benton Harbor community groups, said, “In many instances, these issues had been going on for decades, but they just didn’t make headlines.” This is a reflection of how we ignore water conservancy infrastructure with a history that spans more than 100 years, primarily because it is not visible and out of our minds.
Benton Harbor has shown that toxic metals levels have increased since the first batch. This is despite the fact the state’s environment agency ordering treatment of Lake Michigan water with chemicals to protect lead pipes.
Benton Harbor was visited by state officials who distributed water filters. They sent notices to residents reminding them to consider the lead problem in the water. However, Governor Gretchen Whitmer didn’t declare a State of Emergency until local activists, supported by state and national nonprofit organizations, petitioned the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for assistance in September.
Whitmer is a Democrat running for reelection next season. Since then, he has pledged to speed up the replacements of the lead service lines in Benton Harbor with a goal of completing the job by 2023. On Nov. 2, the EPA demanded a sweeping overhaul of the After inspectors at the agency’s Chicago office discovered equipment damage, chemical tank spills, missing records, and a series of other problems in the lakeside facility, the city’s water treatment plant was urgently dealt with.
“We must shake them up,” Edward Pinckney (local water council leader) told volunteers at Chicago Tribune that Edward Pinckney was telling them before the caravan. You can put bottled water on every doorstep in the town.
This is very similar to Flint, another poor, black city. In Flint, a lot of bacteria and lead began to escape from household taps in 2014. The state appointed manager replaced the water supply, and he did not add anti-corrosion chemicals to the local treatment plant.
More than 12 officials were charged with crimes in connection to Flint crisis. Former Republican Governor Rick Snyder was also indicted.
After the Flint water crisis, state legislators Republicans and Democrats demanded that Michigan’s water supply system be tested more rigorously. Similar problems were found in many other cities, including some where the majority of the population is white.