Benton Harbor Residents File $76M Federal Lawsuit For Water Crisis

In Summary

Eight residents in Benton Harbor have filed a million-dollar lawsuit against officials for the water crisis that spans back to 2018.  

A group of residents in Benton Harbor, Michigan, filed a federal lawsuit last week against Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and state and city officials relating to the city’s water crisis.  

RELATED: Judge Approves Over $600M Settlement for Flint Water Crisis Victims  

Residents, who are mostly Black, were told to drink bottled water due to high levels of lead in the city’s tap water. Benton Harbor Mayor Marcus Muhammad is also named as a defendant, according to Michigan Advance. 

RELATED: Lead in Water Impacting Majority Black City of Benton Harbor  

According to The Guardian, Michigan has advised Benton Harbor residents to stop using the tap water for drinking, bathing, and cooking. For years, the residents have suffered from lead contamination with little intervention from officials. Activists in the area say this issue is a form of environmental injustice as they’ve been asking legislators to take action. 

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.   

The lawsuit is seeking $76 million in addition to blood testing and in-home water testing for all city residents. The plaintiffs also want the creation of a community center designated for those dealing with impairments caused by direct exposure to the lead in the water.  

RELATED: Benton Harbor Hit With Main Break During Ongoing Water Crisis  

Eight residents and some of their descendants filed the lawsuit. They are being represented by Morgan & Morgan and Edwards & Jennings. According to the Michigan Advance, the plaintiffs allege state and city officials did not properly notify them of the elevated lead levels for three years.  

The 63-page complaint accuses the defendants of a lack of concern for residents. It said, “Defendant’s acts and omissions shocks the conscience and shows deliberate indifference to the [plaintiffs’] constitutional rights, resulting in harm to their health, both physically and emotionally.”  

RELATED: Benton Harbor Ordered To Fix Lead Pipes Causing Water Crisis 

If you or someone you know is struggling from trauma triggered by this story, resources are available here.   

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