Benton Harbor Residents File Class Action Lawsuit Over Lead In Drinking Water
Some residents of Benton Harbor, Michigan have filed a class action lawsuit against state and local officials, over lead poisoning risks posed by contaminated drinking water, alleging that state agencies have failed to replace decaying lead water pipes throughout the city.
The complaint (PDF) was filed by a group of residents in the State of Michigan Court of Claims on December 29, naming The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes & Energy (EGLE) and the director of the EGLE’s Drinking Water and Environmental Health Division (DWEHD), Eric Oswald, as defendants.
Concerns about contaminated drinking water in Benton Harbor emerged in October 2021, when a report was released by Benton Harbor Community Water Council, which found extremely high levels of lead in routine water samples dating back to 2018, leaving approximately 10,000 residents exposed to lead levels in the drinking water exceeding 889 parts per billion.
According to the Benton Harbor class action lawsuit, for at least four consecutive years, the EGLE and State of Michigan neglected actionable levels of lead in the city’s public water system, and “repeatedly violated their affirmative and mandatory legal obligations under the Safe Drinking Water Act.”
The complaint indicates that since June 1, 2018, the State of Michigan began collecting samples of tap water in Benton Harbor that reached lead levels of 22 parts per billion (ppb), which is well in excess of the action level of 15 ppb set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Despite this knowledge, the agency failed to fulfill its regulatory and mandatory obligations of giving public notice, and instead implemented a sub-par commercial polyphosphate corrosion control blend to treat the city’s water systems, which ultimately made the problem worse, according to the complaint.
The lawsuit claims the State attempted to implement cheaper treatment solutions for years while concealing the hidden dangers in the city’s tap water, and intentionally abandoned its obligations to provide residents safe drinking water, all while charging residents for the toxic and lead-contaminated water for three years.
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Children diagnosed with lead poisoning after exposure to peeling or chipping lead paint in a rental home may be entitled to financial compensation and benefits.Learn More About this Lawsuit See If You Qualify Now >
Plaintiffs claim Benton Harbor residents have suffered from being exposed to toxic lead exposure in drinking water for three years, causing a myriad of irreversible and lifelong health issues including high levels of lead in their bloodstream, brain, bones and organs, skin lesions and neurological symptoms and disorders, among other side effects from lead contaminated drinking water.
The complaint compares the Benton Harbor lead contamination crisis to the Flint Michigan Water lawsuits, accusing the State of Michigan of declaring a financial emergency in Benton Harbor in 2010, in which the state cut nearly half of its city staff, which severely impacted Benton Harbor’s ability to deliver adequate and safe drinking water to its residents.
Lead Poisoning Risks
Lead poisoning can pose serious health risks to children. Studies have indicated even low levels of lead in the blood can affect a child’s school performance, especially reading readiness for children entering kindergarten. Other effects of lead poisoning include injury to the nervous system, brain damage, seizures, growth retardation, mental retardation, coma, and even death.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that 535,000 children ages 1-5, or about 2.6% of such children in the U.S., have levels of lead in their blood that place them at risk for adverse health effects.
In October 2021, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced it planned to lower the blood lead reference value level to 3.5 µg/dL from 5 µg/dL in U.S. children age’s one through five years old. Under the 5 µg/dL threshold, reports have indicated as many as 200,000 children between one and five years of age were considered high-risk. However, under the 3.5 µg/dL baseline, some reports have projected that number to more than double.
DeannaNovember 10, 2022 at 4:17 am
I have had members of my family pass away from cancer. Also a number of clients within the Facility have been diagnosed with cancer or become I’ll. We have cooked with the water bathed with the water drank the water for my entire life. Both my mother and Stepfather passed away from cancer. Two clients in the facility had cancer. I don’t feel healthy, loss of appetite, energy, Please read belo[Show More]I have had members of my family pass away from cancer. Also a number of clients within the Facility have been diagnosed with cancer or become I’ll. We have cooked with the water bathed with the water drank the water for my entire life. Both my mother and Stepfather passed away from cancer. Two clients in the facility had cancer. I don’t feel healthy, loss of appetite, energy, Please read below
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