Local volunteers ensure City of Benton Harbor residents have access to clean drinking water at distribution sites

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Nov. 16, 2021

CONTACT: Lynn Sutfin, 517-241-2112

LANSING, Mich. - More than 152,000 cases of bottled water have been distributed to City of Benton Harbor residents in the last month and a half thanks to local residents who have volunteered countless hours in partnership with the State of Michigan.

Marletta Seats volunteers at Abundant Life C.O.G.I.C. three days a week to provide cases of bottled water to City of Benton Harbor residents. When asked why she remains so committed, her response is quite simple, "It's just what we do."

"It's a commitment to the community, it's a commitment to our ministry," Seats said. "We have had a ministry food distribution for 15 years and this is a natural continuation to serve the community."

"Marletta has a passion for serving the community and does so with efficiency and effectiveness," said Elizabeth Hertel, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services director. "Her distribution site is a reliable and well-run operation, and she and the Abundant Life volunteers are always excited to serve. They are committed to providing the best possible water support services to Benton Harbor residents."

Seats is thankful for her good health that is allowing her to be hands-on three days a week. She volunteers as the site coordinator at Abundant Life C.O.G.I.C and appreciates the state providing water and other services to the community while the lead service lines are being replaced.

"It's admirable that the state is supplying water to Benton Harbor for this timeframe to address the needs of the community," she said. "It was a nice gift to the community."

Seats is also incredibly grateful for all the volunteers who have stepped up to help distribute water including members of the church's ministry, a former NBA player, neighbors, local companies, pastors from other communities and even a local retired physician.

"Thank you is not enough for what they have provided physically and emotionally to this community," she said. "I am very grateful for all of the volunteers."

Seats urges residents to access water at any of the sites across the city to take care of themselves and their families and also to take advantage of other services being offered, including getting a blood lead test to address any possible health issues.

Free bottled water continues to be provided by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) and local, paid residents as City of Benton Harbor residents are being encouraged to use bottled water for cooking, drinking, brushing teeth, rinsing foods and mixing powdered infant formula. 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.

The upcoming schedule for bottled water pickup is:

Wednesday, Nov. 17

  • Southwest Community Action Agency, 331 Miller Street, 3 - 6 p.m., (Water loaded into vehicles by volunteers)

Thursday, Nov. 18

  • Ebenezer Baptist Church, 214 E. Britain Avenue, 10 a.m. - noon.
  • Southwest Community Action Agency, 331 Miller Street, 10 a.m. - 2 p.m. (Self-service)
  • Brotherhood of All Nations, 1286 Monroe Street, 4 - 6 p.m.

Friday, Nov. 19

  • Southwest Community Action Agency, 331 Miller Street, 10 a.m. - 2 p.m. (Self-service)

Saturday, Nov. 20

  • Boys & Girls Club of Benton Harbor, 600 Nate Wells Sr. Drive, 10 a.m. - 2 p.m.,
  • Harbor of Hope Seventh-Day Adventist Church, 769 Pipestone Street, 4 - 6 p.m. 

Sunday, November 21

  • Abundant Life Church of God, 693 Columbus Avenue, 3 - 5 p.m.
  • Brotherhood of All Nations, 1286 Monroe Street, 4 - 6 p.m.

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.

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.

To ensure the continued success of bottled water distribution locations in Benton Harbor and to recognize the city residents who have been stepping up to donate their time and talent, the State of Michigan has partnered with local agencies to pay city residents who work at state-supported bottled water distribution sites. Individuals who want to serve as community ambassadors to help distribute water should connect with an established distribution site. Individuals or groups who want to serve as unpaid volunteers can sign up on the United Way's online platform.

MDHHS is engaging in a long-term effort to eliminate lead action level exceedances, educate communities on the effects of lead in drinking water, and remove lead service lines. These efforts also include recently approved funds to remove lead from homes in the city. Families living in Benton Harbor can apply for this service by filling out and mailing in an application that is available online. Residents also can call 866-691-5323 to obtain information. 

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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