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Stateside Podcast: Murky messaging on Benton Harbor water

plastic water bottles
Jonathan Chng
Benton Harbor residents have been warned not to drink their water because of lead contamination. For some, this feels like a repeat of what happened less than a decade ago in Flint.

Benton Harbor, a small community in Southwest Michigan, is one of many cities in the state with older water infrastructure. It’s also a majority Black city.

For the past five months, state health officials have been telling Benton Harbor residents not to drink their tap water. 

The water warning came after an inspection at the city’s treatment plant uncovered numerous violations related to disinfection. The city also has had ongoing issues with elevated lead levels in water.

The state has been supplying bottled water to residents while the state works on replacing all of Benton Harbor’s lead service lines.

But as Michigan Radio’s Lindsey Smith told us, messaging to residents about when their water will be safe to drink has been murky.

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April Van Buren is a producer for <i>Stateside</i>. She produces interviews for air as well as web and social media content for the show.
Lindsey Smith is a Peabody Award-winning journalist currently leading the station's Amplify Team. She previously served as Michigan Public's Morning News Editor, Investigative Reporter and West Michigan Reporter.