Divine intervention should not be required for drinking water
Blog invited by Reverend Edward Pinkney
Benton Harbor was in the news most recently for its high lead levels in drinking water, but the problem has been going on for at least three years. Here is Reverend Edward Pinkney’s take on the situation in the form of a guest blog.
I decided to become a pastor because I am called to serve people and have spent my life working to advance social and economic justice as outlined in Micah 6: 8. The skills that make a good pastor include empathy, strong communication skills, and a passion for the community in which you serve.
I love Benton Harbor. Every day that I wake up, I am committed to doing whatever I can to make this a great place to work and raise a family. I have witnessed and experienced the power of prayer, but all the prayers in the world are not enough to maintain a healthy and vibrant community without clean drinking water.
Over the past three years, Benton Harbor has experienced high levels of lead in drinking water. Recent tests have found lead levels as high as nearly 60 times the federal “action level”. In fact, my friend Stacey Branscumb found the levels in his house to be 469 parts per billion, while the federal action level is 15. He recently told me about the severe eczema his little one was suffering from. daughter as well as the death of her beloved Great Dane. . He says he is sad to see this happening to his family and our community.
This news was hard to swallow especially after seeing the devastation of Flint, as it is known that it is the children whose health will be hit hardest by this crisis. Too many parents in Benton Harbor feel overwhelmed that they have let their children down through no fault of their own.
That’s why we have filed an emergency petition with the Federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to request a free source of drinking water for the nearly 10,000 residents of Benton Harbor. In addition, we are calling for the complete removal of the nearly 6,000 lead service lines that supply water to homes in the community.
Our community needs emergency water now, and we are calling on Governor Whitmer, Members of Congress, the EPA and our elected officials to urgently provide bottled water and water tanks to our community now. President Biden agrees with me that we the people should not drink lead in their water, and our community has documented very high levels of lead for at least three years.
Laws like the Safe Drinking Water Act are supposed to keep our water safe. But as we’ve seen time and time again, the water is safer in some communities while others like Benton Harbor have to struggle to get there. Justice delayed is justice denied and drinking water delayed is the denial of the human rights and dignity of people like my friend Stacey.
I know the size of a mustard seed can move mountains. We have seen the power of communities like Flint and Newark when people come together to take matters into their own hands for the justice and the results they deserve. As president of the Benton Harbor Community Water Board, who has worked for the past three years to protect the community from lead in drinking water, I believe we will be successful in our fight for safe drinking water in Benton Harbor.
Water is life. We deserve access to safe, clean water as much as any other community and we will not stop until this happens. We have no other choice.
Reverend Edward Pinkney is Chairman of the Benton Harbor Community Water Council (BHCWC) and Executive Director of the Black Autonomy Network Community Organization, which works for economic and social justice in Benton Harbor.