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Benton Harbor Drinking Water Response
Benton Harbor Drinking Water Response
The Benton Harbor water system exceeded the federal drinking water action level for lead for three consecutive years until the most recent 6-month compliance sampling period. Those results show decreased levels of lead, putting the city just at the federal action level after three years above that level.
The State of Michigan - in concert with Benton Harbor, the local health department, federal agencies, and community stakeholders - has undertaken an urgent whole-of-government response to address this challenge and ensure all Benton Harbor families have access to safe drinking water.
Strategic Communications Advisor
Among other efforts, the State has:
Funded and coordinated ongoing bottled water distribution across Benton Harbor while the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) conducts a further review of the effectiveness of certified water filters using Benton Harbor's specific water chemistry.
Made certified water filters available to all residents through the Berrien County Health Department, worked with a local pediatrician to monitor blood level trends to keep kids safe, and continued the comprehensive set of public health responses that the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) implements with community health partners when water tests from Michigan households show elevated levels of lead.
Helped secure $18.6 million in funding for Benton Harbor to meet Governor Gretchen Whitmer's commitment to replace 100 percent of the lead service lines in Benton Harbor by March 2023 (more than $35 million has been secured overall for water infrastructure needs in Benton Harbor). Benton Harbor's lead service line replacement dashboard and information page provides a wealth of information on that process.
City of Benton Harbor residents can help get this work completed as soon as possible by completing the Water Service Line Replacement Agreement. It provides contractors the owner authorization required to work on a property. Completed forms can be emailed to BVasher@Abonmarche.com or returned to Abonmarche, 95 West Main Street, Benton Harbor, MI 49022.
Helped residents repair in-home plumbing and replace old fixtures through our Water Leak Pilot.
Supplemented Benton Harbor's required public notification efforts to inform residents of the lead action level exceedances by hosting community town halls, creating a Benton Harbor Water Outreach Task Force, and developing updated communication materials and dedicated content on the statewide MI Lead Safe website.
Partnered with Benton Harbor and the EPA to install, monitor, and refine the use of corrosion control treatment, which began after elevated lead levels were discovered in 2018. Corrosion control treatment coats pipes over time and reduces the leaching of lead into drinking water.
Conducted oversight to identify challenges at the system, provided technical assistance to support Benton Harbor in complying with federal and state drinking water rules, and took enforcement actions when necessary to identify the needs the supply must address to ensure all Benton Harbor residents have access to safe drinking water.
In response to records requests from the Michigan Senate Oversight Committee and dozens of Freedom of Information Act requests from journalists and stakeholders, we will continue to post publicly-accessible records and other related materials on the Public Document Releases page.
Gov. Whitmer signs Executive Directives
On October 14, 2021, Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed an executive directive aimed at ensuring access to safe drinking water for Benton Harbor and Lieutenant Governor Garlin Gilchrist II visited the community, meeting with residents and community leaders. The directive implements an all-hands-on-deck, whole-of-government approach to move forward with urgency and ensure that every parent can give their kid a glass of water with confidence.
In addition to the executive directive, Governor Whitmer announced the state is committed to expediting lead service line replacements using additional federal, state, and local resources, with the goal of replacing 100% of lead service lines in Benton Harbor in 18 months.