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City of Benton Harbor residents reminded of available resources to help reduce the risk of lead exposure
January 18, 2022
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Jan. 18, 2022
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.
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. Abonmarche reports that 424 lines have been replaced or verified as non-lead, including 10 replaced in the past 30 days.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
Utility Bill Assistance
Resources are available to help City of Benton Harbor residents with their utility bills. The federally funded Low-Income Household Water Assistance Program (LIHWAP) assists eligible households who have had their water disconnected or are facing disconnection by paying the full cost that will reconnect or prevent disconnection of service. A LIHWAP payment will guarantee service for at least 90 days after receipt of payment and will cover reconnection fees when services have been disconnected.
The State Emergency Relief program is also available to households having difficulties paying their water and wastewater bills.
For more information about how to apply for these programs and additional available resources, City of Benton Harbor residents should call 211.
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, the WIC program offers ready-to-feed formula that does not require mixing with water to Benton Harbor's eligible WIC clients. Ready-to-feed formula benefits may be obtained by using the WIC EBT card at authorized WIC vendors.
Blood lead testing
Blood lead testing is being offered to City of Benton Harbor residents. Although blood lead tests cannot tell you if you were exposed to lead in the past, testing is particularly important for young children and pregnant persons because exposure to lead early in life has been shown to cause problems with learning, behavior, hearing and growth. 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.
Blood lead testing for children is also being offered through the WIC program and the Berrien County Health Department by calling 800-815-5485 or visiting BCHDMI.org for more information. InterCare Community Health Network, located at 800 M-139, is also providing blood lead testing by appointment and can be reached by calling 855-869-6900.
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.
Home lead services
Funding through 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.
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 distributed by local, paid residents of the City of Benton Harbor. 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.
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:
Wednesday, Jan. 19
- 12 - 2 p.m. - Volunteers from Purpose Church Ministries
- 4 - 6 p.m. - Volunteers from Purpose Church Ministries
Thursday, Jan. 20
- 12 - 2 p.m. - Volunteers from Ebenezer Baptist Church
- 4 - 6 p.m. - Volunteers from Brotherhood of All Nations
Saturday, Jan. 22
- 12 - 2 p.m. - Volunteers from Boys & Girls Club of Benton Harbor
- 2 - 4 p.m. - Volunteers from New Covenant Community Baptist Church
Sunday, Jan. 23
- 2 - 4 p.m. - Volunteers from Abundant Life C.O.G.I.C.
- 4 - 6 pm - Volunteers from Brotherhood of All Nations
Monday, Jan. 24
- 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. 25
- 12 - 2 p.m. - Volunteers from Abundant Life C.O.G.I.C.
- 4 - 6 p.m. - Volunteers from Ebenezer Baptist Church
Southwest Community Action Agency, 331 Miller Street, will host self-serve water pickup as follows:
- Wednesday, Jan. 19, 10 a.m. - 2 p.m.
- Thursday, Jan. 20, 10 a.m. - 2 p.m.
- Friday, Jan. 21, 10 a.m. - 2 p.m.
- Monday, Jan. 24, 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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