Historic area forced to modernize due to contaminated water

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BENTON TOWNSHIP, Mi. -- Water services for Mary's City of David-- an offshoot of the House of David, a religious community known for their long hair and baseball teams-- are being taken over by Benton Township after unsafe levels of arsenic were found in their well water. 

Ron Taylor has been a part of Mary's City of David for decades, and he says he's never had a problem with the well water on the property.

“Fern Baxter drank it for seventy years and I drank it for forty-one years," Taylor said. "She died in her high eighties and I’m in my seventy-second year.

But after an actionable level of arsenic was detected in their main well, dug up on the property in the 1940s, Taylor said he and the rest of the City of David community-- around twenty-five people-- had to resort to drinking from other wells on the property, and have them routinely tested for other contaminants.

“That gets expensive," Taylor said. "One of those tests I sent down to Eurofins in South Bend, and for the whole three page fill-out of all those component parts, it’s a sixteen-hundred dollar bill. After a while, you say, 'well, maybe it’s better to do something else.'”

To avoid spending more money on monthly tests, Taylor said they decided to approach Benton Township to hook into their water system.

This week, the township voted to install two-thousand feet of water pipes that will run through the property and into the community's homes and the several rental cottages they offer.

The project is expected to finish in 2023. 

Taylor understands the necessity of testing in the wake of the crises in Flint and Benton Harbor, but he wished they didn't need to do this for such a small community, but he saw it as the only way to get out from what he felt was government overreach. 

He said the City of David residents don't even plan on drinking the township's water because of the potential additives like chlorine. 

“The one’s that I’ve talked to about this, they are going to do the same thing that I’m going to do. They’re going to go to the store and buy bottled water," said Taylor. "They’ve been drinking the good water for so many years, ha ha, they’re not going to drink chlorinated water. And they don’t have to.”

ABC57 reached out to Benton Township as well as Michigan's Department of Health and Human Services and the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy-- though none were able to comment. 


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