In SummaryThe predominately Black city of Benton Harbor, Michigan, has been dealing with lead contamination in its water for years and on Wednesday, a water main break caused residents to be without water for 36 hours.
Benton Harbor, Michigan, a predominately Black city already struggling with lead contamination in water, was hit with a water main break on Wednesday.
According to ABC News, the main break has caused a city-wide loss of water pressure, impacting schools and businesses in the area. Officials warned the rupture to the water main could allow disease-causing bacteria to contaminate the tap water, which already had toxic lead levels for years.
The ongoing issues with the drinking water have many saying this is a form of environmental injustice. In Benton Harbor, 45% of residents live in poverty and 85% are Black, ABC News reported based on census data.
Benton Harbor Mayor Marcus Muhammad posted about the incident on Twitter, saying crews would work on it until the water was restored.
While crews were working on the water system, Muhammad alerted residents to water distribution sites to obtain bottled water for daily use. Additionally, the local YMCA offered its showers for people to use.
According to Muhammad, although he hoped for the issue to be resolved in six to eight hours, the water system was down for approximately 36 hours.
He’s now calling on legislators to pass an infrastructure bill that would help Benton Harbor and other cities whose pipes are in need of replacement or restoration.
Muhammad spoke with Michigan’s House Oversight Committee in Lansing Thursday to discuss the lack of assistance the city has received, The Herlad-Palladium reported.
The city’s water crisis has been going on for nearly three years. In 2018, the city was found to have 22 parts per billion of lead contamination in its tap water, which is significantly higher than the federally approved level of 15 parts per billion. Benton Harbor is about 179 miles from Flint where the lead contamination was at 27 parts per billion at the height of its water crisis, according to The Washington Post.
Governor Gretchen Whitmer proposed new pipes over the course of five years, but it remains unclear how the project would be funded in the Republican-led state. This comes as President Joe Biden’s infrastructure bill continues to get held up and altered on Capitol Hill.
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