We must stop the cover-up of Benton Harbor contaminated water

Rev. Edward Pinkney [left] with members of the Poor People’s Campaign stand in front of Whirlpool Corporation in Benton Harbor, MI prior to the distribution of free water to the people in the town.
PHOTO/VALERIE JEAN

 

BENTON HARBOR, MI — I am the current President and CEO of Black Autonomy Network Community Organization, better known as BANCO. I am also Pastor of God’s Household of Faith, and a community and state activist. Last year, BANCO partnered with Freshwater Future to complete water testing for residents in Benton Harbor for lead and other metals after the city fell out of compliance with the Lead and Copper Rule.

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality Grand Rapids District Office wrote Mayor Marcus Muhammad and City Manager Darwin Watson a letter stating, “The major findings below indicate a number of areas needing immediate attention by the city, many of which have the potential to impact public health by allowing or introducing contamination to the water supply. This is of utmost importance. A review of the financial information finds the city presently lacks an adequate financial mechanism to conduct necessary improvements to hire necessary staff to properly maintain and operate the water system. We strongly advise the city manager and the Mayor to work with a qualified financial consultant to identify the revenue necessary to support operation and maintenance and to implement effective revenue collection methodologies. Investment from the city’s rate payers is essential for resolving the below significant deficiencies and for ensuring the long term vitality of the water system.”

Neither the other remaining elected officials of Benton Harbor, nor the citizens of Benton Harbor, were provided a copy of the letter from the Department of Environmental Quality. The letter was hidden from them.

BANCO went out to get more testing, which confirmed that there is a major lead and copper problem in the city of Benton Harbor’s water. This resulted in more testing and the distribution of water filters for all of the residents.

We must confront the Benton Harbor city manager and Benton Harbor mayor and force them to tell the truth about the water. Clean water is a human right.

I am available to speak about these issues. I have engaged young people in voting activism across the country. I have organized workshops on various issues including social justice and environmental issues, and medical and mental health issues in the justice system. I am the recipient of many awards, including the State of Michigan Outstanding Citizen Award. Please contact me at 269-925-0001.

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