Benton Harbor Is Latest Black City Hit By Water Crisis

Water crisis is similar to Flint situation

Manny Otiko
4 min readOct 23, 2021


Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha (screencap)

By Manny Otiko

So it happened again, another Michigan city, another water crisis. But this time, it’s Benton Harbor.

According to news reports, the Benton Harbor water crisis has been around since 2018. According to Democracy Now!, local tap water contains lead levels 60 times the federal limit. Exposure to lead is harmful to children and pregnant women. Lead also causes developmental delays and behavior problems in children.

“It’s a irreversible, potent neurotoxin,” said Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, in a Democracy Now! interview. “It especially impacts developing children. It erodes cognition, so actually lowers IQ levels. It impacts behavior and development, causing learning problems, attention problems, focusing problems, causes growth problems and hearing problems. And we now know that kids exposed to lead can present later on in life with things like high blood pressure and kidney disease and gout, and even things like early dementia and Alzheimer’s.”

Hanna-Attisha’s work also exposed water pollution in Flint.

State of emergency

But the Benton Harbor situation only recently came to light because of legal action by local activists.

“For three years, it was like this. Nobody said nothing. The elected officials, the governor officials, the EPA — nobody said a mum word. But what happened on September the 9th, we filed a petition,” said local activist Rev. Edward Pinkney. “That petition was a — what do you call — a state of emergency with the federal government. And after filing that, they started to move, and which was so, so important because if we had not filed that petition, you know, we wouldn’t be talking today, and, yet and still, it would maybe be another three or four years that the residents of Benton Harbor would be drinking that tainted water, which is so, so crucial.”



Manny Otiko

Manny Otiko writes about race, politics and sports. He has been published in Salon and LA Weekly. Follow him on Twitter @mannyotiko.