Democratic Governor of Michigan Ignored GOP City with Lead Saturated Water

Dmitrijs Kaminskis /
Dmitrijs Kaminskis /

Gretchen Whitmer, the Democratic Governor of Michigan, ran on a platform of clean water for the city of Flint. It is a heavily Democratic city in the state that has been given the spotlight from important Democrats leaders like Barack Obama over the last number of years.

But once Whitmer was elected as governor, she has been slow to help another Michigan city that leans toward the GOP. They have had dirty water, which is saturated with more lead than was in Flint’s water. The governor’s administration is now working hard to make up for lost time.

Benton Harbor is the GOP city, located in southwest Michigan, 180 miles west of Flint. For at least the last three years, those who live in Benton Harbor have suffered from dangerous levels of lead in their water.

There are some similarities between Benton Harbor and Flint, but politics is not one of them. Flint is in Genesee County, which voted nearly 54% for Biden in 2020. Benton Harbor is in Berrien County, where they voted for Trump by nearly 53%. Both cities have a majority Black population.

Back in May of 2018, while Whitmer was running for governor, Benton Harbor got $284,000 from Republican Governor Rick Snyder’s administration to replace compromised lead pipes. Mike O’Malley was the Benton Harbor Water Superintendent at that time. He estimated that 60 percent of the homes in the city had lead-tainted pipes.

That amount of money was not enough to put an end to the problem. And a couple of months later, Benton Harbor homes tested above the federal action level for lead in their water pipes. Then, in November of 2018, water fixtures at the city’s schools tested above the federal action level for lead. Ever since that time, residents have been continually advised of high lead levels in the water.

The Whitmer campaign focused on fixing lead-tainted pipes in Flint and other areas in Michigan, and, according to a video released by the governor during her campaign, the government has failed the people of the state time and time again. The video also showed her handing out bottled water to Flint residents.

Ironically, in the July 2018 ad, Whitmer even admitted that Benton Harbor’s pipes had more lead than Flint. But once she was elected, the governor has paid very little attention to the small city of about 10,000 people.

The city of Flint has received hundreds of millions in emergency aid for its water crisis. In fact, of the $390 million in state aid Flint received, roughly $129 million was spent on economic development and social development. Only $144 million was spent on ensuring the city’s drinking water supply was safe, according to state spending data.

Back in the governor’s campaign, she called clean drinking water a “fundamental human right” and she promised that residents complaining about water “won’t get ignored for two years.”

In September of this year, residents and environmental groups in Benton Harbor were at the end of their rope. They submitted an emergency petition to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) alleging that the Whitmer administration failed to provide free drinking water and filters to residents.

The EPA responded indicating that it would provide both support and oversight to help with delivering bottled water to residents.

This prompted Whitmer’s administration to launch an intense effort this fall to deal with the crisis. Whitmer asked the state legislature in October for another $11.4 million in addition to the $18.6 billion already going toward fixing pipes. She also paid Benton Harbor a visit last month.

Gus Portela, communications director for the Michigan Republican Party, accused Whitmer of “playing politics with the situation” and called for an investigation into the process.

“This is gross negligence from this governor. She’s failed to deliver on a key promise. She promised transparency and accountability and hasn’t been transparent or accountable to the people,” Portela said in an interview with The Daily Wire.

Perhaps if Benton Harbor had voted for Biden, they wouldn’t be in this mess. At least it seems that Whitmer is doing the right thing now that she’s been called out for her gross negligence.