BENTON HARBOR, Mich. (AP) — Shortly after sunrise on a recent Saturday in Benton Harbor, Michigan, residents began lining up for free bottled water so they could drink and cook without fear of the high levels of lead in the city’s tap water.
Free water distribution sites are a fixture of life in the majority Black city, where almost half of the nearly 10,000 residents live below the poverty line. For three years, tests of its public water system revealed elevated levels of lead.
Waiting for bottled water is time consuming and some residents wonder why, in a state that recently dealt with the Flint water crisis, the problem wasn’t fixed sooner.
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has promised to spend millions of dollars to replace the city’s lead service lines within 18 months – a blistering pace for a process that often takes decades. For now, residents have been warned not to cook, drink or make baby formula with tap water.