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Contractors, plumbers sought as part of expedited effort to remove lead service lines, restore clean water in Benton Harbor

Nov. 29, 2021

Part of robust 18-month plan to remove lead lines, create good-paying jobs

 As part of expedited efforts to replace all lead service lines in Benton Harbor to ensure residents have access to safe drinking water, local contractors and tradespeople are being sought to meet Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's aggressive goal of replacing all lead service lines in 18 months.

"We are continuing to move forward with a sense of urgency, and I appreciate the spirit of partnership and collaboration with Governor Whitmer and our state and federal colleagues which has made it possible to obtain the necessary resources and begin this vital project quickly," said Mayor Marcus Muhammad. "Everyone recognizes that the people of Benton Harbor need and deserve to have safe, clean water coming out of their pipes and faucets as soon as possible, and we are working together to make that a reality. I, again, encourage residents to complete and return the form to have their lead line replaced to keep efforts moving swiftly."

The request for proposal (RFP), which is an opportunity for companies to bid on contracts to replace lead service lines in the city, incorporates best practices from national experts and similar projects around the state and country.

"Getting the lead service lines out of Benton Harbor is a critical next step for delivering clean water to all residents, and it's important to do the job carefully to protect residents during and after the work is completed," said Elin Betanzo, founder of Safe Water Engineering. "The practices required in this request for proposal will ensure high-quality work and residents are protected. This project has the opportunity to build a highly skilled workforce in Benton Harbor to launch lead service line replacement initiatives across the state."

"The experiences and needs of Benton Harbor residents were the top priority in designing this proposal," said Regina Strong, Environmental Justice Public Advocate for the State of Michigan. "We were guided by that perspective and the knowledge that Benton Harbor was another example of an under-resourced community with aging infrastructure. We focused on collaboration and expertise across the public and private sector, and we developed a plan to move quickly and serve as a model for other communities in Michigan and across the country."

Highlights of the RFP include:

  • Incorporation of lead service line replacement best practices from the American Water Works Association, New Jersey and various communities across the state. 
  • The creation of 12 zones within the city, which will allow multiple locations to be worked on by various crews at the same time beginning in the spring. 
  • The opportunity for highly qualified contractors to submit proposals to complete the work. 
  • Incentives and penalties to assure timely quality work is completed. 
  • The requirement for trenchless replacement techniques to assure the least physical disruption to the property and environment.
  • Contractors must provide homeowner notification prior to, during, and upon completion of the work.
  • The requirement for extensive record keeping, including updates to ArcGIS Field Maps, providing the city with comprehensive records for current and future use. 
  • The requirement for contractors to restore homeowner properties to pre-replacement condition, including driveway repairs, sidewalk repairs, and landscaping repairs. 

"Today's announcement is an important step toward the elimination of lead from Benton Harbor's drinking water," said Princella Tobias, Benton Harbor community response team leader and city resident. "I'm excited that the city will soon have more on-the-ground personnel needed to make sure people have safe, lead-free pipes. This is one of several solutions that will ensure clean water for residents. I'm so glad that the city, the state, and the community are working together to get this done."

Current opportunities in Benton Harbor include a request for contractor bids on replacement of lead/galvanized service lines, and two plumbing inspector positions with workstations in the city.

Electronic copies of the bidding documents are provided free of charge on engineering firm Abonmarche's website. The deadline for bids is December 17, 2021. Applicants for the position must apply online no later than December 13, 2021 by going to this website. A non‐mandatory pre‐bid meeting will be held on Monday, December 6, 2021, at 10am virtually via web conference. Information on virtual attendance can be found at and

Gov. Whitmer called for the replacement of all lead service lines in Benton Harbor in 18 months. Governor Whitmer also signed an executive directive that implemented an all-hands-on-deck, whole-of-government approach to move forward with urgency in replacing lead service lines in the city, which has experienced exceedances of the standard for lead in water.

Service lines are the underground pipes that deliver water from the water main to a home. Each service line or connection may consist of multiple plumbing material types including lead, copper, galvanized iron and plastic. Replacement of lines means that both the public (water main to curb) and private (curb to home) portions of the lead and galvanized service lines along with connections are all replaced at no cost to the homeowner. 

To assist with assuring the work can be completed as soon as possible, residents are encouraged to complete the Water Service Line Replacement Agreement available online. Contractors cannot begin work on any property without property owner authorization. Completed forms can be returned to Abonmarche, 95 West Main Street, Benton Harbor, MI 49022 or emailed to





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