Benton Harbor, Michigan, urged to use bottled water due to lead concerns

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The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services on Wednesday advisable residents of Benton Harbor depend on bottled water as a substitute of faucet water as a precautionary measure whereas numerous businesses work to lower the chance of lead publicity. Activist teams say lead within the metropolis’s ingesting water has been a “persistent, widespread, and severe public health crisis” for at the least the previous three years.

“Protecting the health and safety of Benton Harbor residents is a top priority,” the state well being division director Elizabeth Hertel mentioned in a press release. “We’ve listened to the community’s concerns, we are recommending that residents use bottled water for cooking, drinking and brushing teeth.”

Under the advisory, bottled water will probably be made accessible at numerous distribution websites all through the town. More than 4,500 instances of bottled water have been delivered to Benton Harbor to date, with one other 15,500 instances anticipated to be delivered inside coming days, in accordance to the Michigan well being division. 

Benton Harbor residents can nonetheless use unfiltered water for bathing, cleansing, and washing palms, dishes, and garments, the division mentioned. 

Health officers mentioned free bottled water “will be provided as long as needed” whereas the Environmental Protection Agency conducts a examine on filter effectiveness. The EPA didn’t say when the examine is anticipated to be accomplished. 

“Cooperation, collaboration and coordination are the key ingredients moving forward to replace lead service lines and ensure that every resident is protected as we work to solve the water issues in Benton Harbor,” Mayor Marcus Muhammad mentioned. 

The initiative comes following strain from environmental and public advocacy organizations, who say the ingesting water within the metropolis presents “an imminent and substantial endangerment to Benton Harbor residents.”

On September 9, organizations together with the Benton Harbor Community Water Council, Flint Rising and the Michigan Environmental Justice Coalition filed a petition to the EPA, demanding “immediate action to address the public health emergency.”

According to the petition, the predominantly Black inhabitants in Benton Harbor has handled excessive ranges of lead in ingesting water because the summer time of 2018. The metropolis is the one water system in Michigan to exceed the EPA’s lead motion stage threshold six consecutive instances and has not had its lead service traces within the metropolis changed in years, violating federal and state necessities, the organizations wrote. 

“Benton Harbor’s residents are not only subjected to a disproportionately high level of lead exposure from a variety of sources beyond their drinking water but also often lack access to high-quality health care and are exposed to a wide array of other threats that can exacerbate the negative health effects associated with lead exposure,” the petition reads. 

The EPA says there isn’t a identified protected stage of lead in a toddler’s blood and that the damaging well being results of ingesting water with a lead presence embody behavioral points, a decrease IQ, hyperactivity, slowed progress, anemia, cardiovascular results, decreased kidney perform and reproductive issues. 

The teams allege the EPA, the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) and different businesses have persistently failed to guarantee well timed motion in responding to the excessive lead ranges. 

MDHSS and EGLE didn’t reply instantly to CBS News’ request for touch upon Wednesday. 

Following the petition’s launch, EGLE mentioned on September 30 that it was working to completely scale back the extreme lead ranges within the water by changing all lead service traces inside the metropolis. The company additionally mentioned free bottled ingesting water can be made accessible to Benton Harbor residents on that day.

Tori B. Powell

Tori B. Powell is a breaking information reporter at CBS News. Reach her at [email protected]