Saturday, December 16, 2023

The Water Crisis in Benton Harbor / Benton Harbor Community Water Council are the real Heros

The Struggle that has taken place in recent years in Benton Harbor is a case in point, and one that holds a number of lessons for the American people. The fight in Benton Harbor is a war over whether Benton Harbor residents will have prosperity, democracy, live in poverty or have clean, safe water under heels of open corporate rule. The attack on democracy in Benton Harbor shows that corporate power structure is determined to crush anyone who stands in its way. I would like to thank the Benton Harbor Community Water Council for the incredible work that was done to get Benton Harbor clean safe water, without applying continue pressure on the State and Federal government nothing would have been done. It took three long years for government and the Mayor to acknowledge their was a water crisis. No victory lap here.

The drinking water crisis in Benton Harbor has upended the lives of thousands of residents and created an environment and public health disaster that after years of inaction, finally captured the nation's attention. While dangerous levels of lead in the drinking water system garnered national headlines, the drinking water crisis ran much deeper and involved violations of several safe drinking water regulations.

The cause of this multi-faceted drinking water crisis was decades in the making and has its roots in racial discrimination and segregation that has plagued Benton Harbor since the mid-20th century. The loss of Benton Harbor water system's customer base has been at the root of many of its problems, first through flight of the white residents in the 1970's as the Benton Harbor's black population was growing and then through the loss of whole wholesale and industrial customers during the era of emergency management. With too few residents and customers to serve, the water system has struggle to generate revenue causing cuts to the water system's staff and budget. This, in turn has caused a wide variety of water quality and 

treatment issues that go beyond the lead contamination.

Thanks to the tireless faces of the Benton Harbor Community Water Council and Rev Edward Pinkney, Benton Harbor's water system is now providing safe water to its residents -something it hasn't done for years .All the lead service  lines- has been replaced.

But now Benton Harbor faces another pending drinking water crisis, the water , now safe to drink, is unaffordable for its residents. Even with grant funds to cover capital cost at the water treatment plant and to replace lead service lines, a recent report found that Benton Harbor must raise water rates over 205 annually for the next nine years to ensure the water system covers its costs. if this occurs, it is estimated that the average residential water bill will increase from $42 per month to $272 per month.  What is good is safe drinking water if residents cannot afford it?

What happened in Benton Harbor should never ever happen to another Community, another City, another town, never ever.                


Rev Edward Pinkney