December 15, 2021

Benton Harbor water compliance sampling results released today show decreased levels of lead, putting the city just at the federal action level.*

The results are from the latest regular six-month sampling period required under Michigan's Lead and Copper Rule (LCR), which is the most protective in the U.S.

Samples taken from faucets throughout the city at 63 residences from August through November were used in the compliance calculations. Laboratory analysis released by the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) showed results ranging from no detection of lead to 48 parts per billion (ppb), which is a significant reduction from high levels detected in past sampling periods. Six samples had more than 15 ppb of lead - the federal action level. The 90th percentile value* was 15 ppb.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) reaches out to all residences where LCR testing shows an exceedance to offer additional water testing and other services to help abate and protect residents from lead.

 "This is encouraging news, an indication that corrosion control treatment is taking hold and reducing the amount of lead getting into the water," said Eric Oswald, director of EGLE's Drinking Water and Environmental Health Division (DWEHD). "This does not lessen the urgency around our continuing efforts to assist the city in aggressively reducing lead exposure - through lead service line replacement, corrosion control and working to overcome aging infrastructure challenges. Corrosion control treatment in Benton Harbor is done by introducing phosphate into the water supply to coat the lead service lines and fixtures - reducing the amount of lead that dissolves when water passes through those materials."

While this is positive news for Benton Harbor residents, it does not change the urgency around ongoing efforts to address all lead-related concerns in the city. The state will continue its ongoing program to supply residents with bottled water while additional assurance testing is ongoing in Benton Harbor to increase the community's confidence in the safety of their drinking water and ensure it meets state and federal safe drinking water standards.

City and state officials emphasized that there is no change in the current guidance for residents to use bottled water for cooking, drinking, brushing teeth, rinsing foods and mixing powdered infant formula. EGLE and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will also continue to work with the city on operational and infrastructure improvements at the water system to ensure that it operates in compliance with the law.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer remains committed to removing lead service lines across the city in 18 months, as directed through Executive Directive 2021-6 in October 2021. The progress of the replacement program and other information is available through a Benton Harbor LSLR status online dashboard.

 "We appreciate the work of the experts at EGLE and the care that was taken in making sure the samples were collected the right way and that the tests were done properly," said Benton Harbor Mayor Marcus Muhammad. "We are making progress in our work and this instills more confidence in the process we are following."

Michigan's Lead and Copper Rule (LCR) requires regular tap water testing for lead and copper, primarily at residences. When a water system has a round of sampling under the action level there are still requirements that continue until there are two consecutive rounds of testing below the action level. The next round of testing in Benton Harbor is expected to be completed by June 30, 2022.

*Federal action level exceedances are based on lead levels in the 90th percentile of samples collected during a sampling period. For example, if 60 water samples are analyzed, and 6 are above the federal action threshold of 15 ppb, it would count as a lead action level exceedance. An exceedance occurs when a community's ninetieth percentile value for lead during a sampling period is higher than 15 ppb. Since Benton Harbor's first exceedance in 2018, values from the first exceedance and the subsequent 6-month sampling periods have, chronologically, been 22, 27, 32, 23, 24, 24, 15 (all ppb).

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