Clean Water Crisis in Michigan Town

Medscape Staff

November 01, 2021

A small town in Michigan is in a state of emergency owing to lead contamination in the tap water. Residents say the problem has been going on for years.

What to know:

  • A state of emergency and a recommendation to avoid the tap water were issued in Benton Harbor, Michigan, in October owing to lead levels in the water that were higher than the federal standard.

  • For many, the situation is reminiscent of the water emergency in Flint, Michigan, that exposed thousands to lead and bacteria and resulted in the death of 12 people. Flint is about 200 miles from Benton Harbor, where the problem is with corroding pipes.

  • A petition was filed in September urging the Environmental Protection Agency to provide clean water to the city. In October, the state legislature launched an investigation into Michigan's environmental department.

  • Water filters and cases of bottled water have been distributed to residents. Governor Gretchen Whitmer has said that her administration aims to replace all lead pipes in the city within 18 months.

  • Lead in the water has been a problem in Benton Harbor for years, and some residents are questioning whether its demographics have led to the delay in addressing the problem. About half of the residents of Benton Harbor live in poverty, and 85% of the population is Black.

This is a summary of the article, "Michigan Is Suffering From Another Water Crisis, This Time in Benton Harbor," published by The Wall Street Journal on October 31. The full article can be found on

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