Gov. Gretchen Whitmer
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 8, 2021
Governor Whitmer Proposes $200 Million Investment to Replace Lead Service Lines Statewide
Governor committed to using every federal, state, and local resource, including $20 million under today's proposal, to replace 100% of lead service lines in Benton Harbor in five years
LANSING, Mich. - Governor Gretchen Whitmer and the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) today announced a $200 million proposed expansion of the MI Clean Water Plan to remove lead service lines across the state and called on the legislature to use federal funds from the American Rescue Plan to improve access to safe drinking water. The governor also announced a commitment to use every federal, state and local resource available-including $20 million under today's proposal-to replace 100% of the lead service lines in Benton Harbor in five years. The state will also ensure that all families in Benton Harbor have access to free installation of in-home drinking water filters and lead awareness training during the accelerated water infrastructure upgrade work. Benton Harbor recently reported a lead exceedance under Michigan's strict Lead and Copper Rule and stands as a clear example of decades of disinvestment in water infrastructure and the need for further investment across the state to keep Michigan families safe.
"Every Michigander deserves access to safe drinking water and every community deserves lead-free pipes," said Governor Whitmer. "We must make long-overdue upgrades to our water infrastructure and build on the progress we have made under the MI Clean Water Plan to replace lead pipes, fix sewer systems, and tackle PFAS in our water supply. I will work to get people the help they need right now and make lasting, structural investments in infrastructure to protect public health. I urge leaders in Washington to come together to pass the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act so we can replace lead service lines nationwide, and ensure every parent can give their kid a glass of water at the dinner table with confidence that it's safe."
The city of Benton Harbor has approximately 6,000 water service lines, with most consisting of lead or unknown materials. Replacing Benton Harbor's water service lines is estimated to cost nearly $30 million. Under the existing $500 million MI Clean Water Plan, which sets aside $102 million specifically for lead service line replacement, EGLE will award a $3 million allocation through the State Revolving Fund next month to Benton Harbor. In addition to this investment, earlier this year the State supported the City of Benton Harbor's efforts to secure a $5.6 million grant from the EPA to start replacing their lead pipes. With today's $200 million proposed expansion, the city would receive an additional $20 million to replace their lead service lines.
Today's proposed expansion is comprised of the following two parts:
QUOTES FROM STATE, LOCAL, COMMUNITY, AND LABOR LEADERS:
"The health of every Michigander is intimately tied to the quality of their drinking water," said EGLE Director, Liesl Clark. "This $200 million proposal to modernize our aging, inadequate water infrastructure in communities across Michigan and expedite relief efforts to Benton Harbor is an important step towards protecting public health. Water infrastructure is a priority, and we will continue working together to ensure every Michiganders has access to safe drinking water."
"Safe drinking water in Benton Harbor and other communities is vitally important for DHHS to meet its mission of improving the health, safety, and prosperity of all residents in the State of Michigan," said MDHHS Director, Elizabeth Hertel. "When we remove lead service lines, we can deliver health and opportunity to all Michiganders and promote health equity."
"I am grateful for this investment in our community and committed to working with our partners at the state level to help families have access to safe drinking water," said Benton Harbor Mayor Marcus Muhammad. "My office, the Berrien County Health Department, and the state health department are committed to providing filters to families and using the $20 million investment to replace 100% of our lead service lines in five years. Together, I know we can get this done."
"Our department will continue working closely with our state and local partners to help families access safe drinking water," said Courtney Davis, Acting Health Officer and Interim Director of the Berrien County Health Department. "The $20 million investment to replace lead service lines, expanded technical assistance, and greater filter distribution capabilities builds on our ongoing efforts to protect local public health."
"The Governor's $200 million proposal to replace lead service lines will protect public health and help families and communities thrive," said Senator Marshall Bullock, Chair of the Legislative Black Caucus. "This essential expansion of the MI Clean Water Plan will help our neighbors in Benton Harbor replace their lead service lines fast and put filters in their homes right now, as we continue working to provide safe drinking water to every community and make lasting investments in our water infrastructure."
"Governor Whitmer is proactively moving to protect public health and put Michigan families first, especially African-American families in Benton Harbor who have grappled repeatedly with dangerous spikes of this neurotoxin in their drinking water," said Lisa Wozniak, executive director of the Michigan League of Conservation Voters. "Toxic contamination in Michigan's drinking water is an issue that affects us all-whether it's lead in our pipes, toxic PFAS chemicals in our groundwater, or millions of gallons of raw sewage that continually overflows into our rivers and lakes. Both sides in the Legislature have proposed ambitious plans when it comes to investment in our water infrastructure and we anticipate much-needed and unprecedented unification at this critical moment to protect our health and our economy."
"Governor Whitmer's $200 million proposal to build on the MI Clean Water Plan will protect public health and create thousands more good-paying jobs," said Price Dobernick, President of the United Association of Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 333. "This investment to replace lead pipes in every community in Michigan will be boosted by the $15 billion in President Biden's Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and create millions of jobs across the country while safeguarding every community's right to safe drinking water."
"We applaud Governor Whitmer for her leadership in recognizing the critical need to replace the state's toxic and poisonous lead lines. Specifically in Benton Harbor, a majority-Black city, where the residents have been living with dangerously high levels of lead and advocating for clean water for over three years. As water infrastructure is restored throughout the municipality, it must extend to the residential homes to ensure complete safety," said Monica Lewis-Patrick, President & CEO, We The People of Detroit. "The impact of this investment has the opportunity to expand beyond water. Truly investing in the communities most impacted by toxic water, employing the residents who live in those communities enables increased water affordability and long-term economic sustainability. Water rates are continually rising across the nation. While we commend the effort to fix the failing infrastructure, we must also ensure that all Michiganders have the means to access clean, safe, and affordable water in perpetuity."
ADDITIONAL BACKGROUND INFORMATION ON TODAY'S ANNOUNCEMENT:
Taken together, today's $200 million proposed expansion and the $102 million dollars included in the existing MI Clean Water Plan will put $302 million towards replacing lead service lines statewide and help ensure that every Michigander, no matter where they live, can have access to safe drinking water. Replacing lead service lines is a bipartisan priority, and Michigan Senate Republicans have already proposed spending hundreds of millions to address this issue. Although today's plan represents a significant investment that will replace thousands of pipes in hundreds of communities, further investments are needed to completely replace every lead service line in Michigan. Fortunately, the state is expected to receive billions of dollars under President Biden's soon-to-be-passed Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which specifically includes $15 billion for lead service line replacement nationwide. The governor looks forward to utilizing these funds to replace lead service lines, protect public health, and create thousands of good-paying jobs in the process.
Michigan has the nation's strongest regulations to protect communities from lead exposure in drinking water under the 2018 Lead and Copper Rule. The rule requires communities to replace all their lead service lines in 20 years-by 2041-unless otherwise approved by EGLE. The Michigan rule also has the most comprehensive service line inventory requirements in the country, requiring water systems to identify lead service lines and notify residents that receive their drinking water through lead pipes. The state has been going above and beyond to collect more water samples than required under statute to better understand where pipes need to be replaced. While pipes are being replaced, there are ongoing efforts to ensure corrosion control for lines that are known or suspected to have lead exposure.
In 2019, Governor Whitmer, in partnership with EGLE and DHHS, also launched MI Lead Safe, a new website providing lead data results for communities and up-to-date information on how Michiganders can protect themselves from lead exposure.
The governor also created the Office of the Clean Water Public Advocate to investigate drinking water concerns, make recommendations to EGLE and the governor's office to partner with communities like Benton Harbor and ensure that their concerns are addressed and connect them to resources.
ADDITIONAL BACKGROUND ON BENTON HARBOR DRINKING WATER:
Today's actions to support Benton Harbor are necessary because, in spite of efforts taken by the city, EGLE, and MDHHS, the Benton Harbor water system has failed to meet the regulatory standard for lead for six consecutive sampling periods over the last three years. While work to enhance treatment of Benton Harbor's water and reduce lead concentrations in the system will go on, today's $20 million proposed investment will help Benton Harbor speed up the removal of their lead service lines and mitigate ongoing threats to public health.
To protect families in Benton Harbor, DHHS, other state agencies, and local officials have been providing filters free of charge to Benton Harbor residents at a variety of pick-up points or by mail. Today's proposal builds on these ongoing efforts by increasing access to filters and providing in-home installation support to ensure families have safe drinking water until all lead service lines are replaced. Since the passage of our Lead and Copper Rule, the strongest in the nation, the Berrien County Health Department (BCHD) has hosted a number of point of distribution events and drive-thru filter pick-up opportunities in partnership with education, public library, and faith-based partners. Filters can be picked up during business hours on a walk-in basis from the BCHD's Benton Harbor Office, during business hours from the Center for Better Health located centrally in the City of Benton Harbor, and are available at "Pop-up Distribution Events." Residents can also call the public health hotline at 1-800-815-5485 for a mail delivery. These efforts target family events within Benton Harbor city limits for highest impact.