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Benton Harbor Crisis

In the shadow of the Flint Water Crisis, another Michigan city faces a similar fight with agencies for safe, clean drinking water. Since at least 2018, Benton Harbor residents experienced dangerous levels of lead pollution through their public water system. The pervasive contamination presents an imminent and substantial endangerment to their health.

Residents saw a physical change in their water years ago – from color changes to smell and foam. Poisonous toxins first appeared in publicly available data during the summer of 2018. Recent samples found lead concentration nearly 60 times the federal action level—far exceeding the pollution found in Flint. No level of lead exposure is considered safe, particularly for children. It is well documented that children with lead poisoning demonstrate irreversible impairments involving lower IQ levels, decreased ability to pay attention, and lack of academic achievement. They are also substantially higher at risk for kidney disease, stroke, and hypertension.

Benton Harbor has over 5,000 service lines with only 2% of those lines confirmed to contain no lead. The scope of this crisis and the levels of contamination require an urgent intervention.

So far, the response to this crisis has been anything but urgent. Three years later, the actions taken by both the city and the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) have been ineffective. Michigan's governor signed a plan to start replacing the service lines but funding for the project is not guaranteed. Only 100 lines will be removed in the spring of 2022 and the entire removal plan could take longer than five years to complete.

Children and families in Benton Harbor already face a growing disparity within their community due to both environmental and socioeconomic stressors. Under ten thousand people live in the city with nearly half living below the federal poverty line. 85% of residents are Black and 5% are Hispanic. Because the inequity of water supply remains unaddressed in this community, the health of the residents and the city itself are in imminent danger. It is too late to undo the damage to the thousands who have been permanently harmed by the state government's delayed response.

Find out whether you have a case by speaking to one of our experienced lead poisoning lawyers via phone at 1-866-LEAD123 (1-866-532-3123) or by submitting an email inquiry (see form to the right). Our attorneys will be quick to respond to you and happy to answer all of your questions.

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