Benton Harbor declares state of emergency for water crisis

NOW: Benton Harbor declares state of emergency for water crisis

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During a press conference Tuesday, Benton Harbor Mayor Marcus Muhammad laid out the plan for ensuring residents have free access to clean water. He also spoke about ensuring the pipes throughout the city are replaced.

“It takes a whole ‘nother approach at this point to close those gaps, remove and replace all those lead service lines, it’s going to take all hands on deck from a local level,” said Mayor Muhammad.

Benton Harbor’s City Commission unanimously declared a local emergency over the city’s dangerous lead levels during its Monday night meeting.

This empowers Mayor Muhammad to take unilateral action and make his sole focus leading Benton Harbor out of its crisis.   

“We support our mayor to lead us out of this, our mayor didn’t put us in this, but we agree that this mayor will get us out of this,” said Mayor Pro Tem Duane Seats.

The city is also initiating a Community Response Team that will meet weekly and go door-to-door to keep residents informed and make sure they have enough bottled water.  

“My role will be reaching out to the people, whoever loves this city will understand that we want them to come on board, this is an aggressive approach but it’s going to be a solution,” said Princella Tobias, Chairperson of the Benton Harbor Community Response Team.

Governor Whitmer’s emergency directive last week already allocated millions of dollars and the state’s resources to keep residents safe while the pipes get fixed. 

This level of assistance city officials said they’ve never had access to despite this not being a new problem.

“This is not something that just happened, it’s not just happening in Benton Harbor it’s happening around the country, but we’re going to be the model to correct it,” said Ellis Mitchell, City Manager.

Work has already started on replacing pipes and construction on 100 more begins next month.

Mayor Muhammad said there’s no benefit anymore in pointing figures, but instead, to focus completely on the permanent solution.

“I’m just happy today to stand here and say we do have the money, we are moving forward, I can play the blame game but nobody wins.”  

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