Folks from Flint, Highland Park, and Detroit arrived in Benton Harbor on July 10, 2021, to support because we know what the Benton Harbor community is going through all too well. We have been fighting for clean, affordable water for years. A community gathering was organized to talk about lead in the water.
Fifteen parts per billion is the level of lead in water that’s considered the “action level” by the EPA. It’s the point at which steps need to be taken, even though they recognize no amount of lead in the water is safe for humans and animals. Shockingly, ninety percent of lead tests in Benton Harbor since October 2018 have fallen at or slightly below 21 parts per billion.
It has been three years since Benton Harbor found out they had elevated lead in their water. It is likely that they have been using and paying for poisoned water for years. The city has said that it will take 20 years to replace the pipes. 20 years is Absolutely Unacceptable! As a band-aid, the city has provided filters for the community’s kitchen faucets. The residents struggle because they don’t know how to properly install them or use them. Many of the filters are not even certified to filter out lead and heavy particulates.
Residents have been notified by the city that their water bills would be going up 11% in the coming months. One gentleman stood up in the meeting and asked angrily, “Why do we have to pay for water that is killing us?!”
One resident said at the meeting that Benton Harbor had sent out a boil water alert. We learned from Flint that boiling the water only concentrates the lead and that people end up breathing it in. Benton Harbor telling their residents to boil their water is a complete lack of understanding of the life or death issue at hand.
Benton Harbor must provide residents with training to install faucet filters and replacement filters for safe drinking water. They must set up public water stations in communities so residents have access to safe, public drinking water. Nobody should be bathing in water with lead in it. Nobody should be cooking with this water either.
Finally, if Benton Harbor needs to start the long process of replacing the pipes now. They must create a plan to train and hire people that live in Benton Harbor. It is the only way to start the healing process.
~ by Valerie Jean