Skip to main content

Benton Harbor water lead levels continue to fall in latest round of testing

With lead service lines replaced, city’s focus moves to in-home plumbing

The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) today announced that the City of Benton Harbor’s most recent six-month monitoring period for lead in drinking water showed a 90th percentile* calculation of 1 part per billion (ppb), well below the state and federal limit of 15 ppb.

This marks the fourth consecutive time in the past two years that the city has met the requirements of Michigan’s strictest-in-the-nation Lead and Copper Rule (LCR). EGLE attributes the rapid drop in lead levels to the city’s recently completed lead service line replacement effort.

The latest six-month monitoring period from Jan. 1 through June 30, 2023, resulted in a 90th percentile calculation of 1 ppb for lead from 69 sampling locations. All sites are classified as Tier 3 residential sites with older lead-soldered copper plumbing as there are no longer any homes or businesses in the city connected to lead service lines.

The latest lead testing result is lower than the previous six-month period result of 10 ppb from 83 sample locations.

“The success in driving lead levels to near zero in Benton Harbor shows that investment in infrastructure coupled with intergovernmental cooperation can lead to dramatic improvements in people’s drinking water,” said Eric Oswald, director of EGLE’s Drinking Water and Environmental Health Division (DWEHD). “This amazing progress in two short years demonstrates that when federal, state, and local partners work together communities benefit. Although some of this rapid progress can be attributed to the fact that we only had 4,500 service lines to replace in Benton Harbor, EGLE believes this model of cooperation can be scaled up to work in larger communities.”

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer committed the state to removing lead service lines across Benton Harbor in 18 months, as directed through Executive Directive 2021-6 in October 2021.

EGLE technical experts continue to consult with staff at the Benton Harbor water plant to further improve operations at the plant including corrosion control techniques. Corrosion control is achieved by introducing phosphate into the water supply to coat service lines and interior fixtures – reducing the amount of lead that dissolves when water passes through those materials.

Michigan in 2018 adopted the nation’s toughest lead rules for drinking water. The state’s Lead and Copper Rule (LCR) requires that all lead service lines in the state be removed. Water supplies are required to replace an average of five percent of their lead service lines annually over a 20-year period that started in 2021. Starting in 2025, the rule lowers the action level to 12 ppb.

Strategies to reduce lead exposures in the home can be found on the state’s Mi Lead Safe website,


*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 more than six 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 six-month sampling periods have, chronologically, been 22, 27, 32, 23, 24, 24, 15, 14, 10 and 1 (all ppb).

Media Contact: