Residents of Benton Harbor, Michigan, are being offered free bottled water this week after high levels of lead contamination were found in the area.
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services is now pressing Benton Harbor residents not to cook or drink with tap water.
The city, which is primarily populated by Black people, has been suffering from lead-contaminated water for at least three years. Data shows the highest lead reading from sampled homes found 889 parts per billion — more than 59 times the state limit.
More lead than Flint, Michigan.
The city advised that bottled water should also be used for rinsing food and mixing powdered infant formula. They added that unfiltered tap water could be used for showering, bathing, washing hands, dishes, clothes and cleaning.
Speaking to ABC News, Rev Edward Pinkney, head of the Benton Harbor Community Water Council, described the water as “yellow with little particles in it with a bad smell.”
“It took three years and a petition to force this to happen. There’s a major problem. They were trying to cover it up,” said Pinkney. “When you have lead in your water, you’re poisoning the community. We must take a stand and make sure that every single community has clean water and we must do it immediately. We can’t wait.”
More than 4,500 cases of bottled water have been delivered to the city of Benton Harbor, with another 15,500 cases expected to reach city distribution centers in the coming days.
“I am grateful for the support of Governor Whitmer, EGLE, EPA, MDHHS and all of the agencies in the effort to provide resources to keep City of Benton Harbor safe,” said Benton Harbor Mayor Marcus Muhammad. “Cooperation, collaboration and coordination are the key ingredients moving forward to replace lead service lines and ensure that every resident is protected as we work to solve the water issues in Benton Harbor.”