For years, children of Benton Harbor, Michigan were exposed to lead-contaminated water without them or their parents knowing about this hidden danger. In the wake of the Flint Water Crisis, an investigation has revealed similar negligence on behalf of government officials and water consulting companies in Benton Harbor resulting again in widespread lead contamination in drinking water. Today, the effects of lead poisoning are clearer than ever in Benton Harbor. Young children are the most vulnerable to lead poisoning, as their brains are still developing and lead is toxic. The United States government has confirmed there is no safe level of lead in drinking water. That is why it’s so important for drinking water to be treated properly to avoid the corrosion of lead in piping systems. In both Flint and Benton Harbor, government and private contractors failed to take proper steps to safeguard the public from high levels of lead in drinking water.
In a complaint filed in federal court in Michigan, Levy Konigsberg is demanding justice on behalf of roughly 400 affected children exposed to lead contaminated water in Benton Harbor. Levy Konigsberg is an experienced lead poisoning law firm that is currently serving in a leadership role in the Flint Water Crisis litigation. Leading the way in the Benton Harbor lawsuit for Levy Konigsberg is Attorney Corey Stern, who has played a central role in the firm’s litigation for the people of Flint, Michigan. Joined by Attorney Amber Long and Attorney Kimberly Russell, they recently filed a 111-page lawsuit to officially begin the Benton Harbor case, with numerous parties and individuals named as defendants.
Benton Harbor’s History of Water Contamination
Benton Harbor officials and its private consultants knew that lead had entered the city’s public water supply as early as 2018. Immediate notification to the residents was not issued, though. It would not be until October 2021 that an official statement was given, which encouraged the residents to drink out of bottled water because unsafe lead levels had been detected in tap water. The delay in action to protect the people of Benton Harbor is at the root of the lawsuit.
For decades, the risk of poisoning caused by lead pipes has been widely understood, which is why lead water pipes are no longer used in new construction. Yet city officials and their private contractors failed to take proper steps so that the lead would not leach from the lead pipes and contaminate the city water supply. Instead of notifying people and taking action to correct the situation quickly, it stayed hushed and allowed people to unknowingly consume, bathe in, and otherwise use the unsafe water for years.
The defendants, as with the Flint Water Crisis Litigation, are likely to argue that they took all necessary steps to mitigate the risk of lead poisoning. Levy Konigsberg is prepared to litigate these issues as it has done in Flint for years. Significantly, although all the defendants in Flint denied wrongdoing, that case resulted in a settlement with the State of Michigan, City of Michigan and a major hospital for a sum total of over $600 million dollars. Levy Konigsberg is continuing to litigate against private contractors whose negligence helped cause and exacerbate the Flint Water Crisis. The people of Benton Harbor, like the people of Flint, deserved justice and full compensation from all responsible parties from widespread lead contamination in their drinking water.
Harm Has Already Been Done
While there are now efforts to fix the problems that caused Benton Harbor’s water crisis, this is too little too late. Once a young child is chronically exposed to lead in drinking water, there will be lasting cognitive damage from the effects of toxic lead poisoning on the developing brain. Unfortunately, the devastating effects of of lead poisoning have already spread throughout the community. As stated in the federal complaint filed by Levy Konigsberg: the children “have and will forever suffer cognitive deficits, […] reduced earning capacity compared to [their] peers, and […] will feel shame throughout their lives as each of them struggles to keep up with classmates, family members, and ultimately coworkers.”
On top of the fact that hundreds of children are already showing symptoms of lead poisoning due to Benton Harbor’s unsafe drinking water, the lawsuit also explains how government official and their consultants engaged in misconduct that resulted in the water crisis. What little information that Benton Harbor residents received about the unfolding water situation led them to believe that they could safely drink the water. Water containing toxic lead is unsafe especially to young children. Health experts and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have confirmed that there is no amount of lead exposure in drinking water that is considered safe.
Demanding Justice for the Children
Although no amount of money can undo what has been done to the children of Benton Harbor, the lawsuit’s importance should not be minimized. Lead poisoning cases must be pursued to hold negligent government officials and private companies accountable. Financial compensation awarded to the plaintiffs can help secure future medical care and special education needs, which will contribute to their future well-being.
Furthermore, negligent corporations and government entities often only learn a lesson when it is paid in a lawsuit, so the Benton Harbor case could push other cities and companies to do more about fixing lead pipe problems before anyone else is hurt. With lead pipes still used to distribute drinking water throughout most American cities, it more important than ever to encourage government officials and private water engineers to perform their duties properly to prevent lead contamination in drinking water.
To learn more about the Benton Harbor lawsuit filed by Levy Konigsberg led by water crisis lawyer Attorney Corey Stern, you can click here to read a full article from Michigan Advance. You can also click here to view the full court filing. If you would like to speak to a member of Levy Konigsberg about a lead contamination case or lawsuit, then please use an online contact form at any time or dial (800) 315-3806.