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City of Benton Harbor lead service line replacement effort reaching completion

LANSING, Mich. -- Today, Governor Gretchen Whitmer, state officials and local partners announced that the accelerated campaign to replace aging lead water service lines in the City of Benton Harbor is reaching completion five months ahead of schedule, on budget and at no cost to residents. As of today, 99% of the city’s water service lines have been inspected and replaced with new copper lines if lead or galvanized pipe was found.   

 

To date, nearly 4,500 water service lines have been replaced or verified non-lead, leaving less than 40 more inspections to complete. Progress on the project is updated daily on the Benton Harbor project dashboard

 

“Every Michigander deserves access to safe drinking water and have confidence in the water coming out of their tap,” said Governor Whitmer. “Last year, community partners, local officials, state departments and federal agencies came together to secure bipartisan funding and set an ambitious target to replace every lead line to protect the health and safety of every family in the City of Benton Harbor. We are getting it done ahead of schedule thanks to all our partners and most importantly, the Michiganders who did the hard work of replacing these lines. Let’s keep working together to protect drinking water.”

 

“Upgrading water infrastructure is critical to boosting access to clean water and ensuring Michiganders can be confident that their water is safe to drink,” said Lt. Governor Garlin Gilchrist II. “Today’s announcement is a result of the hard work of community leaders, state and federal officials and Benton Harbor residents. It proves that we can come together and take action to protect the health and safety of Michigan families. Governor Whitmer and I are thankful for our partners, and we will continue working to invest in water infrastructure in communities throughout Michigan.”

 

State and local officials also reiterated their ongoing commitment to Benton Harbor residents as the city moves toward the next phase of reducing in-home lead exposure risks. Lead-reducing filters, bottled water, free home lead inspections and abatement services will continue to be offered to help make City of Benton Harbor homes lead safe.

 

"Benton Harbor's future depends on its ability to meet the needs of its residents,” said Benton Harbor Mayor Marcus Muhammad. “Thank you to my partners in the City of Benton Harbor, Berrien County, Governor Gretchen Whitmer, the State of Michigan and the EPA for working with us to improve the quality of life in our community. We look forward to continuing our work together."

 

"The Lead Line Replacement Project, started in October 2021, was planned to be completed in March 2023. The fact that we have not only replaced virtually all of the lead lines in the City of Benton Harbor but have finished the job ahead of schedule is a tremendous accomplishment,” said Ellis Mitchell, City of Benton Harbor City Manager. “A project of this magnitude could not have been accomplished without tremendous resources and support from every level of government. Thank you to all our partners who worked with us to get this critical work done."

 

"From replacing our water lines, to distributing bottled water and removing lead from our homes, our local, state and federal leaders, as well as community partners, came together and partnered with the Benton Harbor community in a way that makes me truly proud, said Princella Tobias, City of Benton Harbor Resident and Benton Harbor Team Solutions Leader. “This recovery is just the beginning, and we are hopeful that once we move past this crisis, we'll see more investment, new opportunities, and a brighter future for Benton Harbor."

“The replacement of lead service lines is an important step in making City of Benton Harbor homes lead safe,” said Elizabeth Hertel, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) Director. “It’s important that Benton Harbor families continue to use filters or bottled water for cooking, drinking, brushing teeth, rinsing foods and mixing powdered infant formula until they have their free home lead inspection from MDHHS to ensure there are not additional sources of lead in their homes from paint or plumbing.”

 

“EGLE is proud to work with the City of Benton Harbor along with our state partners and U.S. EPA on this critical infrastructure project,” said Liesl Clark, Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) Director. “These new copper service lines and our ongoing technical support to the city’s drinking water plant will improve the long-term reliability and safety of Benton Harbor’s drinking water infrastructure and help rebuilding people’s trust and confidence in their water.”

 

“EPA was pleased to support the successful effort to replace lead service lines throughout Benton Harbor,” said EPA Region 5 Administrator Debra Shore. “Every American has the right to drink water that is free from lead and other contaminants, but there are still 6 to 10 million lead services lines in cities and towns across the country, many of which are in communities of color and low-income neighborhoods. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law provides $15 billion to communities to replace those lead pipes so American families will no longer have to fear the harmful health effects caused by lead and other pollutants in their water.”

 

“Replacing the lead service lines required an all-hands-on-deck effort from local, state and federal officials working together to serve every household and business in the community,” said U.S. Rep. Fred Upton (R-St. Joe). “I was glad to be a partner working with all the leaders and hard-working construction folks of Southwest Michigan to get the job done early.”

 

“No family should have to question whether their water is safe to drink,” said U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.). “It’s been an all-hands-on-deck effort to remove the lead service lines in Benton Harbor. This is an important step forward for Benton Harbor.”

 

“Making sure every Michigander has access to safe, quality drinking water has been one of my top priorities in the Senate, which is why I strongly supported the legislation that provided the federal funding to help make this project in Benton Harbor possible,” said U.S. Senator Gary Peters (D-Mich.). “I’ll continue to work with Governor Whitmer and our local and federal partners to protect the health and safety of the people of Benton Harbor and to replace the remaining lead service lines in Michigan.”

 

Under current law, EGLE pro-actively ordered Benton Harbor to remove 7% of its lead service lines in 12 months, beginning July 1, 2021. However, Governor Whitmer worked with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to expedite the timeline with a goal of 100% replacement in 18 months (by March 2023).

 

Nearly 2,800 “Right of Access” Water Service Line Replacement Agreement forms have been completed by the 2,900 current water customers in Benton Harbor – a necessary step to allow the contractors to access private properties to perform the work. The Water Service Line Replacement Agreement may be accessed, filled out and submitted online. Forms may also be submitted to Abonmarche, 95 West Main Street, Benton Harbor, MI 49022 or emailed to Sandy Riehl at sriehl@abonmarche.com. For questions, call 269-926-4557.

 

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EGLE Media Office, EGLE-Assist@Michigan.gov, 517-284-9278