Groups Fighting for Safe Drinking Water in Benton Harbor React to Governor Whitmer’s Executive Directive for “Whole-of-Government” Response

BENTON HARBOR, MI – Michigan Governor Whitmer today issued an executive directive launching a “all-hands-on-deck, whole-of-government approach” to ensuring safe drinking water for Benton Harbor. The directive includes a commitment to removing all the lead service lines in 18 months. Pressure on the administration has been building since last month, when groups petitioned the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for an emergency response to high levels of lead in the city’s drinking water for the last three years. Recent test results found lead levels as high as nearly 60 times federal standards. There is no safe level of lead.

The following are reactions from representatives of groups that petitioned the EPA for an emergency response for safe drinking water in Benton Harbor:

“This is what we’ve been waiting for -- an ‘all-hands-on-deck’ approach to fix the lead contamination crisis in Benton Harbor. The Governor’s executive directive is a welcome step to inform the community that the water is unsafe now, but help is on the way,” said Reverend Edward Pinkney, president, Benton Harbor Community Water Council. “I want to thank the Benton Harbor Community Water Council and all the petitioners for getting the Governor to call for all-hands-on-deck.”  

“Drinking water should be safe, regardless of zip code. Governor Whitmer’s executive directive reflects urgent community priorities of securing safe water and removing lead water pipes. NRDC is committed to working with Benton Harbor residents and state officials to move this plan forward,” said Cyndi Roper, senior Michigan advocate with NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council). 

“Benton Harbor’s lead crisis requires a robust emergency response from the government, and it looks like that is exactly what Governor Whitmer proposes to do. We look forward to working with the Governor and state staff to develop and execute an across the board response to the drinking water crisis,” said Nick Leonard, executive director, Great Lakes Environmental Law Center. 


Last week, Michigan delivered bottled water to Benton Harbor, after issuing an advisory that residents not use tap water for "cooking, drinking, brushing teeth, and mixing powdered infant formula.” Last month a group of 20 Michigan and national organizations filed an emergency petition with the EPA to secure a free source of safe drinking water for Benton Harbor’s nearly 10,000 residents, among other requests including full removal of the nearly 6,000 lead service lines delivering water to homes.

NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 3 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world's natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Bozeman, MT, and Beijing. Visit us at and follow us on Twitter @NRDC.

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