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Like Flint before it, Benton Harbor, Michigan, is in the midst of a water crisis. The water flowing through the city’s pipes and into homes is not safe to consume because of the risk of lead exposure. There are more than 9,000 residents in this small community, most of them Black. More than 40% of residents live below the poverty line. But while locals wait for a long term solution, many in the Benton Harbor community are stepping up to help, including delivering bottled water door to door. Michael Hill reports.
Finally, tonight: We have the story of volunteers making a difference in a small city in Michigan that's facing a crisis that began in 2018, when reports of lead exposure from water pipes surfaced.
Replacing the pipes in Benton Harbor, Michigan, is an ongoing project and residents are still being told not to drink water from their taps. The Environmental Protection Agency says there is no safe level of lead in drinking water because the toxic metal quote "Can be harmful to human health even at low exposure levels."
The government is providing free bottled water, but getting thousands of bottles into homes every day is not easy – and now volunteers are stepping up to meet the need.
Donnel Kyle is on a mission.
I'm a Marine, they say always once a Marine always a Marine. I did serve in Desert Storm, Desert Shield. So I'm used to volunteering and doing things for my community.
Kyle, a former Marine, is part of a team from Greater Community Christian Fellowship Church delivering cases of bottled water in Benton Harbor, Michigan. Like Flint before it, Benton Harbor is in the midst of a water crisis. The water flowing through the city's pipes and into homes is not safe to consume because of a possible risk of lead exposure. There are just more than nine thousand residents in this small community, most of them African American. More than forty percent live below the poverty line.
It just seemed like as always, the situation is in the community where there's poverty. We have this crisis going on and it's very unfair that is happening in our community.
Water is available to be picked up at specific locations, but not all residents have transportation and some are unable to leave their homes. So Kyle and his team deliver six days a week.
To your right just a little bit …
They load a rented van with two skids of water – totaling 168 cases – for each trip. The team works for six hours, making three runs and delivering almost 600 cases of water. Some homes receive just a few cases. Some receive as many as two dozen depending on how many residents are at each location and their needs. Their goal is to keep Benton Harbor's residents safe.
We are all doing our part to make sure that everyone gets what they need, that they get this water.
Recent testing has shown that lead levels have dropped somewhat but residents are still advised to use bottled water for drinking and cooking. Meanwhile, the state of Michigan has called for the replacement of Benton Harbor's lead water service lines within eighteen months at a cost of nearly $30 million. Until then Donnel Kyle will see his mission through.
We are in it for the long haul. And everybody in the community is banding together. We're going to continue to deliver water however long it takes. If it takes five years, ten years, we're in it. We're in it to get this water out to our community.
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