Benton Harbor residents continue to rely on bottled water despite having a lead crisis for years. The Associated Press reported the Michigan House of Representatives recently held a hearing on the situation.
Unlike Flint, which had an unsafe water source, Benton Harbor gets its water from Lake Michigan, as do several other municipalities.
With the state already having dealt with the Flint water crisis, some residents have wondered why the state hasn’t resolved the issue sooner. News reports announced Thursday that Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed a directive to strengthen the state’s drinking water.
The predominantly Black city declared a safety emergency over its lead levels previously. Levels present in the city are said to be higher than those present in Flint at the height of its crisis. In an interview with “Detroit Today,” Nick Leonard said it is unclear what caused the levels in Benton Harbor to spike beginning in 2018.
“What’s different in Benton Harbor than Flint — we don’t really know what caused the contamination there [in Benton Harbor],” Leonard told “Detroit Today” in an interview” We saw elevated lead levels starting in 2018, but there was no similar discernible decision or event that seemed to cause that.”
The Associated Press reported residents have expressed concerns over the safety of the water, and some struggled to get bottled water. Those who are homebound can call a helpline to have it delivered to them, but one resident told the outlet it takes long or isn’t reliable.
It’s been almost ten years since the Michigan state legislature passed the emergency manager law. The Michigan Daily reported that the Hamtramck Town Center is another city with water issues, joining the ranks of Benton Harbor and Flint. Recently, researchers with the University of Michigan found that cities that were predominantly Black or communities of color were more likely to be burdened with an emergency manager.
“While municipal takeover policies are often presented by supporters as rationalized, apolitical and technocratic responses to municipal financial distress, they have been found to in fact be deeply biased and often racialized responses to the structural challenges facing many U.S. cities,” reads an excerpt from the University of Michigan.