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City Commissioner of Benton Harbor, MI Mary Alice Adams speaks to PBS NewsHour Extra

City Commissioner of Benton Harbor, MI Mary Alice Adams speaks to PBS NewsHour Extra

November 1, 2021

Environmental Racism and Undrinkable Water

Ask students: Who is affected by a water crisis in Benton Harbor, Michigan? What is the problem with the water?

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Summary

As Congress debates a massive bill to overhaul the nation’s physical infrastructure, one Michigan city is an example of how badly help is needed, and how communities of color are often the last to receive it. John Yang traveled to Benton Harbor, where the water is undrinkable and residents’ anger is at a boiling point.

Discussion Questions

  • Who is affected by a water crisis in Benton Harbor, Michigan?
  • What is the problem with the water?
  • When and how did the problem become known?
  • Why hasn’t the problem with Benton Harbor water been resolved, according to those interviewed in this piece?
  • How are residents of Benton Harbor trying to work through the problem with their water even as their tap water remains undrinkable?

Focus Questions

Reverend Edward Pinkney, who was one of the first to alert authorities to problems with Benton Harbor’s drinking water, says that the lack of response to the problem is an example of “environmental racism.” What do you think he means?

Media Literacy

Why do you think the producers chose to focus interviews more on the residents of Benton Harbor than authorities and officials who are responsible for Benton Harbor’s water supply?

Additional Resources

In this story, the dangerous levels of lead in Benton Harbor’s drinking water weren’t discovered until residents had the water tested themselves. Do you know how to test the quality of drinking water in your home or community? You can discuss as a class and start here, with information from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on testing for lead in water.

To learn more about the history of the water crises in Benton Harbor and Flint, Michigan, read How segregation and neglect left Benton Harbor, Michigan with toxic water by NewsHour’s Frances Kai-Hwa Wang.

Read more news here.

Republished with permission from PBS NewsHour Extra.

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