Over 400 water lines replaced or verified in City of Benton Harbor, new contracts will spark acceleration of work in March

MDHHS Contact: Lynn Sutfin, Sutfinl1@michigan.gov
EGLE Contact: Hugh McDiarmid Jr., mcdiarmidjrh@michigan.gov

LANSING, Mich. - More than 400 water service lines in the City of Benton Harbor are verified lead-free, with a massive acceleration of replacement work scheduled for March. To date, 424 lines have been replaced or verified as non-lead, including 15 replaced in the past 30 days despite snowstorms and frigid weather.

In March, the pace of work will accelerate dramatically when up to a half-dozen new contractors are expected to dig in.

Bids from 13 contractors are being reviewed by the City of Benton Harbor for removal of the remaining estimated 3,900 lead service lines. Between four and six of the contracting firms are expected to be hired to begin accelerated work with a target start date of March 1. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has directed that all the city's lead lines be replaced by spring 2023.

"We appreciate the cooperation of residents and collaboration with the state on this endeavor to help make sure that lead service lines are replaced, and water is safe when it comes out of faucets in Benton Harbor homes and businesses," said Benton Harbor Mayor Marcus Muhammad.

City of Benton Harbor resident Hope Campbell Lewis has lived in the city for 27 years and is a well-known owner of a food truck specializing in providing Elephant Ears at local events. 

"This is a wonderful thing for our city," said Campbell Lewis. "I am happy to hear that my children and grandchildren will soon be able to drink the water without worrying about lead in the pipes. Moving quickly to remove the lead lines means a lot to this community so that we can move forward. This has not been an easy time, but I am happy to see us moving in the right direction so that we can all safely drink our water in Benton Harbor."

Service lines made of lead are a significant source of lead contamination introduced to the drinking water as it flows to Benton Harbor taps. They connect city water mains - which typically run underneath streets - to individual homes and businesses.

The replacements are performed at no cost to homeowners. However, contractors must have a signed "right of entry" form to access private yards to complete the work. Information on how to obtain and submit forms - electronically or in-person - are available at this site.

Updates on the progress of lead line replacement and additional information is available on the constantly updated Status Dashboard on the city's website.

Free bottled water continues to be provided by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) and distributed by local, paid residents of the City of Benton Harbor. This action is part of an accelerated, across-the-board effort to reduce the risk of exposure to lead in drinking water while the city replaces all lead service lines.

To arrange water delivery to homebound or residents without transportation in the city of Benton Harbor, contact 211, which is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Phones that cannot contact 211 should contact 844-875-9211.

Community volunteers from the following organizations available to assist City of Benton Harbor residents pick up water at Benton Harbor High School, 870 Colfax Avenue as follows:

Thursday, Jan. 13

  • 12 - 2 p.m. - Volunteers from Ebenezer Baptist Church
  • 4 - 6 p.m. - Volunteers from Brotherhood of All Nations

Saturday, Jan. 15

  • 12 - 2 p.m. - Volunteers from Boys & Girls Club of Benton Harbor
  • 2 - 4 p.m. - Volunteers from New Covenant Community Baptist Church
  • 4 - 6 p.m. - Volunteers from Harbor of Hope Seventh-Day Adventist Church

Sunday, Jan. 16

  • 2 - 4 p.m. - Volunteers from Abundant Life C.O.G.I.C.
  • 4 - 6 pm - Volunteers from Brotherhood of All Nations

Monday, Jan. 17

  • 12 - 2 p.m. - Volunteers from Abundant Life C.O.G.I.C.
  • 4 - 6 p.m. - Volunteers from New Covenant Community Baptist Church

Tuesday, Jan. 18

  • 12 - 2 p.m. - Volunteers from Abundant Life C.O.G.I.C.
  • 4 - 6 p.m. - Volunteers from Ebenezer Baptist Church

Wednesday, Jan. 19

  • 12 - 2 p.m. - Volunteers from Purpose Church Ministries
  • 4 - 6 p.m. - Volunteers from Purpose Church Ministries

Southwest Community Action Agency, 331 Miller Street, will host self-serve water pickup as follows:

  • Wednesday, Jan. 12, 10 a.m. - 2 p.m.
  • Thursday, Jan. 13, 10 a.m. - 2 p.m.
  • Friday, Jan. 14, 10 a.m. - 2 p.m.
  • Wednesday, Jan. 19, 10 a.m. - 2 p.m.

Additional dates and locations for bottled water pick up will be added to make sure community needs are met. Information will be posted on Michigan.gov/MiLeadSafe.

The ongoing response in Benton Harbor includes the city, Berrien County Health Department, local community organizations, MDHHS and the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy.

For questions about lead, MDHHS can be reached at 866-691-5323 Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. - 5 p.m.

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