April 13, 2022
ACLU and Coalition Partners Condemn the Grand Rapids Police Killing of Patrick Lyoya and Call for Transparency, Accountability
April 13, 2022
ACLU and Coalition Partners Condemn the Grand Rapids Police Killing of Patrick Lyoya and Call for Transparency, Accountability
Stop the State Police Harassment and Targeting of Rev. Edward Pinkney of Benton Harbor
April 7, 2022
To Governor Gretchen Whitmer, State Police Director Colonel Joseph Gafper, and DHHS Deputy Director David Knezek:
We are greatly alarmed that Michigan State police are being sent to target and harass Rev. Edward Pinkney, the noted community activist in Benton Harbor, Michigan. On March 25, 2022 Sgt. Hayward of the Paw Paw State Police post and another officer went to Rev. Pinkney’s home. They raised several ridiculous allegations that Rev. Pinkney was selling (donated) water in South Bend, Indiana and that Rev. Pinkney might be tampering with water test results in Benton Harbor. When Rev. Pinkney asked about why the State of Michigan had not paid him for the use of two rooms in his church contracted by the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) to store filters and water for the past months, the officers accused him of “holding the supplies hostage.” On another recent occasion state troopers came to the church and watched while water was being distributed to community members.
We cannot help but recall that Rev. Pinkney has been the victim of persecution for his community service. He was imprisoned for literally quoting the Bible in an article. This case was thrown out upon appeal but only after Rev. Pinkney spent one year in prison.
On another occasion Rev. Pinkney was arrested, tried and convicted for petitioning to recall the Mayor of Benton Harbor. He spent two and one half years in State prisons. Only after those long years Rev. Pinkney’s case was overturned by the Michigan Supreme Court which found that he had not broken any law. We believe that without the mass public support and pressure Rev. Pinkney would have been killed by the guards in Marquette Prison.
So we take it very seriously when State troopers start harassing the Reverend and when spurious charges start to be floated against him.
We demand that you take immediate action to stop the harassment, apologize to Rev. Pinkney and ensure that all officials under your direction cease and desist from any and all further actions that target and endanger Rev. Pinkney.
David Sole Abayomi Azikiwe Yvonne Jones
Moratorium NOW Coalition
Take Immediate Action:
Call and express your concern or email a message to
Michigan.gov/Whitmer/contact, click Contact the Governor, fill in the information and type in your message
313- 864-0161 (cell phone)
or 517-241-3740 DHHS state office headquarters
~Occupy the PGA ~ May 2022, Benton Harbor ~ Details forthcoming~
"All this leaves Benton Harbor residents without satisfying answers about the safety of their water."
Michigan Radio | By Lindsey Smith
Published March 14, 2022
For five months, state health officials have told Benton Harbor residents not to drink their tap water. The warning came after an inspection at the city’s water treatment plant uncovered numerous violations related to disinfection. Michigan’s Department of Health and Human Services also cited ongoing elevated lead levels. But now that safety message is shifting.
Teams of workers from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency went into nearly 200 Benton Harbor homes to get water samples late last year. Tera Fong is the Water Division Director for the EPA region that includes Michigan.
“We found that properly operated filters were successful in reducing lead considerably and consistently with the performance expectations of those filters. We did see firsthand that that filters were often not operated and installed properly,” Fong said earlier this month.
Please take a look at the 17 photos accompanying the article below to see the daily labor residents have to carry out to have some clean water. In the governor's town of East Lansing, pipe installation would happen in a more than timely fashion. It should also be noted that no St. Joe residents have crossed the river to help out.
Rev. Pinkney says that the statements of Elin Betanzo, a water quality expert and former EPA official, are the most important part of the article. They are at the end.
EPA says Benton Harbor tap water filters are working properly
BENTON HARBOR, MI — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says filters distributed by the state and county health departments since 2018 to remove lead from tap water in Benton Harbor are working effectively.
When properly installed and used, filters are removing lead from municipal tap water, the EPA said last week, following a 2021 study of about 200 homes in Benton Harbor.
The study was launched in response to a request from community advocates who sought a federal intervention following three years of high lead levels in city water.
Petitioners expressed concern that health officials were distributing point-of-use faucet filters and water pitcher filters in response to elevated lead risk but weren’t taking steps to ensure they worked or that people were using them properly.
They asked that EPA’s Office of Research and Development (ORD) conduct a filter study.
While noting that the filters are working, the EPA nonetheless concurred that Benton Harbor residents “need better information to install and operate filters properly,” and said the agency would help distribute educational materials.
Rev. Pinkney states the article below is the first one to mention the important issue of bacteria in the water. He also said it’s the combination of bacteria and lead which is so dangerous. It can make people very ill, and can also kill them. It’s a silent killer - he’s very worried about what’s happening to BH residents.
February 10, 2022 Submitted via email
Liesl Clark, Director
Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy
Elizabeth Hertel, Director Michigan Department of Health And Human Services
Re: Benton Harbor Safe Water Plan
Dear Director Clark and Director Hertel,
Since a group of over 20 environmental and community organizations (collectively, “Petitioners”) came together in early September to file an emergency petition with the U.S. EPA regarding lead in Benton Harbor’s public water system, all levels of government have stepped up to provide a number of services to Benton Harbor residents. While these services were overdue, they have ensured that all residents of Benton Harbor have access to safe drinking water, have put the City on the path towards removing all lead service lines from its drinking water distribution system, and have provided key public health services.
The Petitioners are encouraged by the latest lead sampling results in Benton Harbor indicating that lead levels may finally be lowering after at least three years of being above the federal action level. However, high amounts of lead that can present significant health risks, particularly to infants, children, and pregnant mothers, still exist in Benton Harbor’s tap water. Additionally, since the environmental and community organizations filed their emergency petition, it has come to our knowledge that the Benton Harbor water treatment plant has long been operating in violation of federal drinking water standards regarding the surface water treatment rules, specifically regarding disinfection and filtration, which has created cause for concern that Benton Harbor's tap water may be contaminated with bacteria as well as lead. These violations were the primary focus of a unilateral administrative order executed by the U.S. EPA in early November which requires Benton Harbor to take a number of actions to ensure its water treatment plant complies with the Safe Drinking Water Act.
As work continues to address the many issues in Benton Harbor’s water system, the actions taken to ensure all Benton Harbor residents have safe drinking water will change. Benton Harbor residents do not want to rely on bottled water forever. However, the slow response to Benton Harbor’s water crisis has led many residents to distrust their tap water and it will take time to rebuild that trust. It is our hope that Benton Harbor residents will eventually be able to use point-of-use water filters with full confidence that their filtered water is safe and eventually ultimately will be able to drink water straight from their tap again without fear or apprehension. To rebuild the public’s confidence in their tap water, it is important that we move forward with caution and that we affirmatively ensure and confirm that water provided through point-of-use filters is safe from lead while also ensuring issues at the treatment plant are not causing additional contamination issues that filters cannot address.
As such, the Petitioners are recommending the following actions – referred to as the Benton Harbor Safe Water Plan - to ensure that all residents continue to have access to safe drinking water and to repair their broken trust in the local, state, and federal government:
1.) ContinueMakingFreeBottledWaterConvenientlyandWidelyAvailabletoAllBentonHarbor Residents
While relying on bottled water for all drinking and cooking needs is not easy, many Benton Harbor residents are not likely to trust the water coming out of their tap. Rebuilding this trust will take time and is dependent on a government response that centers community concerns. Additionally, lead is still present in Benton Harbor’s tap water at levels that present a high risk to infants, children, and pregnant mothers. Many mothers must continue to rely on bottled water to mix with powdered baby formula. Even after all lead service lines are replaced by the spring of 2023, there is still the risk that residual amounts of lead from lead service lines will remain for several months. Additionally, there will still be lead in household plumbing in many Benton Harbor homes. It is important that even at the time when water data indicate it is appropriate to transition to the use of point-of-use filters, that bottled water remain conveniently and widely available to all residents who prefer bottled water as their reliable source of safe drinking water.
Action: Continue to make free bottled water available for all Benton Harbor residents until all of the following conditions are met:
● At least 6 months after all lead service lines in Benton Harbor have been replaced;
● The Benton Harbor water system has demonstrated full compliance with the Safe
Drinking Water Act, and;
● The Benton Harbor water system implements the optimal corrosion control treatment to address the risk posed by lead in household plumbing.
2.) ConsideringtheBentonHarborwatertreatmentplantiscurrentlyoperatinginviolationofthe Safe Drinking Water Act, require the Benton Harbor water treatment plant to come into full compliance with the Safe Drinking Water Act and require a demonstration that point-of-use filters are effective at removing lead before providing Benton Harbor residents with point-of-use filters certified for lead reduction as well as instructions for filter installation and maintenance
For the past several months, the U.S. EPA has been studying the effectiveness of faucet-mount and pitcher water filters at reducing lead in Benton Harbor’s tap water. However, Benton Harbor’s water system issues go beyond lead. In November, the EPA executed a unilateral administrative order requiring Benton Harbor to make numerous repairs to its water treatment plant to ensure it is properly disinfecting and filtering the water to prevent potential bacteria contamination. The point of use water filters being studied in Benton Harbor are not capable of removing bacteria contamination.
We believe point-of-use filters in combination with convenient and widely available access to bottled water can play a key role in ensuring Benton Harbor residents have safe drinking water. However, we must first affirmatively ensure that point-of-use filters are effective at addressing the range of lead levels in Benton Harbor’s water system and ensure that the Benton Harbor treatment plant is in compliance with Safe Drinking Water Act requirements meant to prevent bacteria contamination given that such contaminants cannot be removed by point-of-use filters.
Action: Before distributing water filters and recommending them as a reliable source of safe drinking water in Benton Harbor, it must be demonstrated that:
● Benton Harbor is complying with public notification requirements regarding its ongoing violation of disinfection profiling and benchmarking requirements, as well as other treatment technique requirements, which ensure water systems implement proper disinfection treatments to control Cryptosporidium, Giardia, and viruses. At the very least, this should include complying with the public notification requirements required under the federal and Michigan Safe Drinking Water Act, which includes issuing a public notice to every household, either by mail or direct delivery, every 3 months until the violation is resolved that describes the violation, the potential adverse health effects, the population at risk, and when the supply expects to return to compliance;
● Benton Harbor’s water treatment plant is meeting all other Safe Drinking Water Act requirements;
● Benton Harbor has complied with all requirements provided in federal and state administrative or other enforcement orders regarding the federal and state Safe Drinking Water Act, including the U.S. EPA’s Unilateral Administrative Order and EGLE’s Administrative Consent Order; and
● Filter study results indicate point-of-use filters meet or exceed the NSF 53 filtration standard for lead reduction during the entire recommended filter use period in Benton Harbor’s water.
Once these criteria have been met, we believe it is appropriate to distribute point-of-use filters to residents while also providing them with the option to obtain free bottled water. However, a number of actions must be taken to ensure that filters are properly installed and used.
Action: Once the above criteria are met, distribute water filters via door-to-door delivery as follows:
● Water filters must be certified to meet the ANSI/NSF standard 53 for lead reduction and ANSI/NSF standard 42 for particulate reduction;
● Water filters should be distributed to each resident via door-to-door deliveries with the option of in-house installation assistance and hands-on education;
● Instructional materials on the proper installation and maintenance of filters as well as public education materials describing the health risks of consuming unfiltered tap water, the health effects of lead exposure, the effectiveness of filters at removing lead if properly installed and maintained, and information about obtaining replacement filters must be provided, and;
● Benton Harbor residents must be paid to assist with door-to-door filter distribution and education.
While progress is being made to ensure all Benton Harbor residents have access to safe drinking water, there is still a lot of work to do to not only ensure Benton Harbor’s tap water is safe but also to rebuild resident’s trust in their tap water. Rebuilding trust will take time and the government response must center the community, transparency, and public health.
We respectfully request a response to this letter by 5 p.m. on Monday, February 18th. We are also available to discuss the details of this letter in greater depth at your convenience.
Great Lakes Environmental Law Center 313-782-3372 | firstname.lastname@example.org
Submitted On Behalf Of:
Reverend Edward Pinkney, President, Benton Harbor Community Water Council
Mary Brady Enerson, Michigan Director, Clean Water Action
Rebecca Meuninck, Ph.D., Deputy Director, Ecology Center
Mona Monroe-Younis, Executive Director, Environmental Transformation Movement of Flint
Nayyirah Shariff, Director, Flint Rising
Liz Kirkwood, Executive Director, FLOW (For Love Of Water)
Jill Ryan, Executive Director, Freshwater Future
Jameela Maun, MA, Executive Director, Healthy Homes Coalition of West Michigan
Jamesa Johnson Greer, Executive Director, Michigan Environmental Justice Coalition Maureen Taylor, State Chair, Michigan Welfare Rights Organization
Cyndi Roper, Michigan Senior Policy Advocate, Natural Resources Defense Council Tabitha Williams, President, Parents for Healthy Homes
Sylvia Orduño, Organizer, People’s Water Board Coalition
Elin Betanzo, Principal, Safe Water Engineering, LLC
Rhonda Anderson, Sierra Club Michigan Chapter
Melissa Mays, Coordinator, Water You Fighting For
Monica Lewis-Patrick, President and CEO, We the People of Detroit
Amy Barto, M.Ed., President & Healthy Children Project Coordinator, Learning Disabilities Association of Michigan
Watchdog to probe EPA handling of Benton Harbor
Updated: Feb. 19, 2022 | Published: Feb. 18, 2022.
‘We have a national crisis here, the urgency is not happening,’; Benton Harbor residents speak out after elevated levels of lead found in the water
By Garret Ellison | email@example.com BENTON HARBOR, MI — A federal watchdog announced an investigation into the government’s handling of lead-tainted tap water in Benton Harbor, a majority Black city of 9,800 with high poverty in southwest Michigan which has been relying on bottled water for the past five months.
The Office of Inspector General (OIG) for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) initiated an audit on Friday, Feb. 18, stating in a letter to agency administrators that it would review whether a 2016 policy on “elevation” of critical public health issues was followed.
The investigation follows a season of upheaval in Benton Harbor, where the state health department began urging people to use bottled water following three years of high lead results and chronic operational problems at the water plant.
It also follows a petition filed with EPA in September by a group of community advocates who sought a federal intervention in Benton Harbor, which was under state-appointed emergency financial management from 2010 to 2016.
Those advocates welcomed the investigation.
“For years, Benton Harbor residents said the water was contaminated and for years we were ignored,” said Rev. Edward Pinkney, a local faith leader and president of Benton Harbor Community Water Council, who was among the petitioners. An investigation into what the EPA did and did not do for this environmental justice community is long overdue.
In a letter to Radhika Fox, assistant administrator for the EPA Office of Water, and Debra Shore, administrator for EPA Region 5, the inspector general’s office indicated the investigation is part of a broader effort to improve how EPA addresses environmental injustices to historically marginalized communities.
The letter requested copies of training materials and instructions to Region 5 staff about the 2016 memorandum, “Policy on Elevation of Critical Public Health Issues,” all Benton Harbor-related complaints from the EPA drinking water hotline and any correspondence about their resolution.
“The anticipated benefits of this audit are to determine if the EPA can improve the speed at which public health protections are delivered to communities facing imminent and substantial public health risks,” wrote Michael Davis, a director with the inspector general.
The agency said it would cooperate with the investigation.
“No family should ever have to worry about the water coming from their tap and the Benton Harbor community is no exception,” said EPA Region 5 spokesperson Taylor Gillespie. “EPA is committed to ensuring that everyone has access to clean drinking water and addressing lead in drinking water. We always cooperate fully with the Inspector General and we look forward to their review.
In November, the EPA ordered Benton Harbor to fix its troubled drinking water plant following a September inspection that found alarming breakdowns with the chlorine disinfection treatment used to kill harmful pathogens.
In October, chronically elevated lead levels in Benton Harbor’s water gained widespread attention when the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) urged city residents to switch to bottled water while the EPA analyzed tap filters that officials began distributing in 2019.
The EPA is expected to release final results from a study on the effectiveness of those filters this month.
Benton Harbor water began testing above the 15 parts-per-billion (ppb) federal action level in October 2018. Since then, lead remained consistently high in subsequent testing, between 22- and 32-ppb, prompting escalating concern among community advocates who began to question the effectiveness of the state’s efforts to add and adjust corrosion treatment.
Corrosion inhibiting chemicals like orthophosphate are added to water systems to coat the inside of lead service lines in the distribution network and prevent the heavy metal from flaking and leaching into the water.
Lead is a potent neurotoxin that experts say has no safe level of exposure. High amounts can cause brain and nervous system damage, slowed growth and development, learning and behavior problems and hearing and speech problems. Exposure has also been tied to lower IQ, decreased attention span and school performance in children.
In December, the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) said six month testing results finally showed a reduction in lead levels.
In the meantime, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s administration drew criticism and scrutiny from Republicans and some advocacy circles for allowing another majority Black impoverished city to struggle with lead-tainted water after the Flint crisis.
Whitmer, a Democrat who is facing re-election this year, pledged to see all the city’s lead service lines removed by April 2023 and has sent bottled water, enhanced services, grant funding and other state government aid.
Lead line removals are expected to accelerate this spring after the city commission approved $33 million in contracts with five excavation companies. The state says bottled water will remain available until all the lead pipes are removed.
“It’s unthinkable that after the Flint crisis, another majority Black community had to wait for years before emergency action was taken when high levels of lead were found in the drinking water,” said Cyndi Roper, senior policy advocate with Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) in Michigan. “It’s reassuring that the EPA is investigating what happened in Benton Harbor, because we cannot let this happen to another community ever again.”