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MDHHS and EPA begin new water testing activities in City of Benton Harbor homes this week Governor Whitmer visits construction site to see lead service lines replaced in the city
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Nov. 9, 2021
CONTACT: Lynn Sutfin, 517-241-2112
LANSING, Mich. - To learn more about City of Benton Harbor drinking water and to determine the effectiveness of filters in homes, the Environmental Protection Agency and Michigan Department of Health and Human Services are testing drinking water in homes starting this week and over the next several weeks.
Water testing will help EPA and MDHHS determine if lead is present in water of individual homes; if it is coming from pipes or plumbing fixtures in the home; the potential presence and size of lead particles; and how well filters work to reduce lead in Benton Harbor drinking water in relation to the city's specific water chemistry. This is a collaborative effort with support from the Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) and the Berrien County Health Department.
There are three testing activities underway:
- Filter testing to determine if certified filters are working as expected to reduce lead.
- Source of lead in water testing to determine if lead is present in a home's water and if it's coming from the home's plumbing or water service line.
- Lead type testing to determine how much lead is present in small particles in drinking water.
Homes have already been identified for source of lead and lead type testing. Some homes have also been identified for filter testing; however, additional households may be eligible to participate in the filter study at no cost if they meet the following criteria:
- Do not have a whole house filter, reverse osmosis or cold-water line water softener.
- Currently have a pitcher filter or faucet-mounted filter certified to reduce lead.
- Have 30 minutes available between 7:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. Monday through Saturday to allow a sample team into their home.
Households that meet the criteria should call 269-248-2195 to learn more and schedule an appointment. Residents will be provided results of filter tests as soon as they are available.
Following the completion of these studies, MDHHS will continue to support water testing in Benton Harbor as the lead service lines are being replaced over the next 18 months. Residents can contact MDHHS with questions at 866-691-5323 Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Today, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer visited a construction site in the City of Benton Harbor where the lead service lines are being replaced after her commitment to replace 100% of the city's lead service lines in 18 months. The governor also attended a weekly local community meeting and listened to local leaders and residents.
In October, Governor Whitmer signed a directive to build on ongoing efforts underway at various departments and by critical stakeholder groups and community leaders, ensuring state government and its partners are all rowing in the same direction and laser-focused on shared goals.
As part of these efforts, distribution of free bottled water continues in the City of Benton Harbor with the MDHHS and local, paid residents providing cases at community distribution sites and through deliveries to residents who are homebound or lack access to transportation.
Free bottled water is being provided by the state as 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. 10
- Southwest Community Action Agency, 331 Miller Street, 3 - 6 p.m., (Water loaded into vehicles by volunteers)
Thursday, Nov. 11
- Ebenezer Baptist Church, 214 E. Britain Avenue, 10 a.m. - noon.
- Brotherhood of All Nations, 1286 Monroe Street, 4 - 6 p.m.
Friday, Nov. 12
- Southwest Community Action Agency, 331 Miller Street, 10 a.m. - 2 p.m. (Self-service)
Saturday, Nov. 13
- 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 14
- 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 EGLE.
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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