City of Benton Harbor residents reminded of available resources to help reduce the risk of lead exposure

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Nov. 18, 2021

CONTACT: Lynn Sutfin, 517-241-2112

LANSING, Mich. - The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) is reminding City of Benton Harbor residents of resources available to them as 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.

Pipe replacement

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer called for the replacement of lead service lines in Benton Harbor in 18 months and the Whitmer-Gilchrist Administration has provided just under $20 million to Benton Harbor to speed up their service line replacement timeline.  

There is no cost to City of Benton Harbor residents for lead service line replacement. 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 bvasher@abonmarche.com

Home lead services

Funding though the federal Children's Health Insurance Program, which provides health insurance coverage for low-income children, is available to provide comprehensive services to identify and remediate all lead hazards in Benton Harbor homes. This includes dust, paint, soil and drinking water.

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.  

Blood lead testing

Blood lead testing is being offered in the City of Benton Harbor next week to provide residents of all ages an opportunity to get their blood tested for free. For individuals who have elevated blood lead levels, the goals are to identify the source of lead, stop the lead exposure and to talk with their doctor to discuss any other tests or follow-up that might be needed.

Children less than 6 years old with an elevated blood lead level are offered nurse case management through the Berrien County Health Department, which includes a home visit with a registered nurse. More information is available in English and Spanish.

WIC ready-to-feed formula

To protect Benton Harbor's youngest residents and reduce lead exposure, the Michigan WIC program recommends breastfeeding or offering breast milk as long as possible. Talk to your medical provider if you have questions about your lead exposure. Contact your local WIC clinic at 269- 927-5646 to take advantage of additional breastfeeding support and nutrition education services. For parents choosing to formula feed, formula that does not require mixing with water is available to eligible Benton Harbor WIC clients. Ready-to-feed formula benefits may be obtained by using the WIC EBT card at authorized WIC vendors.

Low-Income Household Water Assistance Program
A federally funded program is helping pay the water and wastewater bills of eligible City of Benton Harbor residents who are past due on their bills or in disconnect status.

The City of Benton Harbor is providing a list of customer accounts to MDHHS that are past due or in disconnect status for a data match to current benefit status to help determine eligibility and expediate the payment process. The earliest eligible customers would see updates on their billing statements is mid-December. For more information about assistance, call 211.

Community ambassadors

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.

For more information on any of these programs or the work being done in the city of Benton Harbor, visit Michigan.gov/MILeadSafe.

Free bottled water continues to be provided by 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.

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:

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, Nov. 21

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

Monday, Nov. 22

  • Southwest Community Action Agency, 331 Miller Street, 10 a.m. - 2 p.m. (Self-service)
  • Abundant Life Church of God, 693 Columbus Avenue, noon - 2 p.m.

Tuesday, Nov. 23

  • Abundant Life Church of God, 693 Columbus Avenue, noon - 2 p.m.
  • Ebenezer Baptist Church, 214 E. Britain Avenue, 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.

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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