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Benton Harbor Residents File Lawsuit Alleging Lead Contamination

Posted on December 29, 2021

Residents of Benton Harbor, Michigan filed a lawsuit on Dec. 29 in Michigan’s Court of Claims, alleging the Michigan Department of the Environment (MDE) failed to stop lead-contaminated water from being distributed to the town’s public water system.

The lawsuit, brought on behalf of the more than 10,000 Benton Harbor residents that consumed contaminated water, charges that the MDE and the Drinking Water and Environmental Health Division of Great Lakes & Energy (EGLE) were negligent and committed a series of deliberate actions that caused Benton Harbor residents to “drink and use knowingly unsafe, lead-contaminated water from a system it knew had higher levels than Flint’s (Michigan) ever recorded.”

Specifically, the suit alleges that “the State knew that corrosive water was being sent through the Benton Harbor municipal system’s lead piping without adequate corrosion control measures, yet continued to order Benton Harbor to unilaterally apply knowingly ineffective corrosion control measures, sending lead into people’s homes and bodies without informing the public about the dangers it knew were flowing through the system.”

The lead plaintiffs of the class have alleged personal injury and property damages because of the alleged negligent contamination to the municipal water system. Plaintiffs seek to represent a class preliminarily defined as “all owner-occupants and renters of residential or commercial properties serviced by Benton Harbor’s municipal water system.” The alleged injuries include high levels of lead in their bloodstream, brains, bones, and other organs; skin lesions and hair loss; neurological symptoms and disorders; and chronic and acute abdominal and stomach discomfort.

According to the lawsuit, defendants acting through the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) and its official policymakers, all acting in their official capacities and pursuant to customs, policies, and/or practices, deliberately exposed Plaintiffs and the putative class to dangerous, unsafe, and/or inadequately treated municipal water that was contaminated with lead, despite subjective and objective knowledge that such exposure would result in widespread and permanent damage to person and property, including through irreversible lead poisoning of children and other vulnerable persons.

The lawsuit seeks damages for medical monitoring, severe emotional distress, diminution of property values, and punitive damages. The case is Angel Guyton et al. v. The Michigan Department of the Environment et al., Michigan Court of Claims.

The complaint can be found here.