MDHHS announces new winter schedule for free, bottled water distribution in City of Benton Harbor along with recycling

Benton Harbor High School site to provide drive-thru pickup; Southwest Community Action Agency providing self-serve through end of the year

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Dec. 3, 2021

CONTACT: Lynn Sutfin, 517-241-2112

LANSING, Mich. - The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) is announcing changes to bottled water distribution starting Sunday, Dec. 5 with water and recycling being provided six days a week at Benton Harbor High School.

Volunteers from community distribution sites will be providing drive-thru water distribution at the high school Sunday through Thursday and Saturday each week. The new location will offer recycling for empty water bottles as well as a heated building for volunteers to warm up and a larger space for water storage. In addition, the Southwest Community Action Agency will continue providing self-serve pickup four days a week through the end of December.

"With winter weather already underway here in Michigan, we wanted to provide a centralized location for Benton Harbor families to access clean, safe drinking water," said Elizabeth Hertel, MDHHS director. "We appreciate the willingness of our amazing community volunteers to move to the high school location to continue providing water to their neighbors. Our thanks to Benton Harbor High School for supporting their community by hosting this site."

Additional volunteers are needed to assist at the high school distribution site. 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 one of the community organizations listed below. Individuals or groups who want to serve as unpaid volunteers can sign up on the United Way's online platform.

Starting Sunday, Dec. 5, volunteers from the following organizations will be available to assist City of Benton Harbor residents pick up water at Benton Harbor High School, 870 Colfax Avenue as follows:

Sunday, Dec. 5

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

Monday, Dec. 6

  • 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, Dec. 7

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

Wednesday, Dec. 8

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

Thursday, Dec. 9

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

Saturday, Dec. 11

  • 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

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

  • Monday, Dec. 6, 10 a.m. - 2 p.m.
  • Wednesday, Dec. 8, 10 a.m. - 2 p.m.
  • Thursday, Dec. 9, 10 a.m. - 2 p.m.
  • Friday, Dec. 10, 10 a.m. - 2 p.m.

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.

Prior to the winter distribution schedule beginning on Sunday, Dec. 5, water pick will be available at the following location:

Saturday, Dec. 4

  • 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.

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.

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. 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.

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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