Gov. Whitmer Visits First Lead Service Line Replacement Construction Site in Benton Harbor Since Call to Replace 100% of LSLs

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 

November 9, 2021 

Contact: press@michigan.gov  

 

Gov. Whitmer Visits First Lead Service Line Replacement Construction Site in Benton Harbor Since Call to Replace 100% of LSLs 

Governor joins community meeting, provides updates on progress underway to meet governor's commitment to replace 100% of Benton Harbor lead service lines in 18 months 

 

LANSING, Mich. - Today, Governor Gretchen Whitmer visited a construction site in Benton Harbor where the first lead service lines (LSLs) are being replaced after her commitment to replace 100% of the city's LSLs in 18 months. The governor also attended a weekly local community meeting and listened to local leaders and residents. She underscored the executive directives she signed, funding she has secured, and looked ahead to the $1.3 billion Michigan is expected to receive from the bipartisan federal infrastructure package for water infrastructure improvements.  

 

"Today, I visited a construction site in Benton Harbor where we are moving dirt to replace 100% of lead service lines in the city," said Governor Gretchen Whitmer. "I am proud of the progress we are making, and I look forward to much more. I am confident that we can meet our goal to replace 100% of lead service lines in Benton Harbor within 18 months and utilize the $1.3 billion headed our way from the federal bipartisan infrastructure bill specifically for water to protect safe drinking water in every community. Later, I attended a weekly community meeting and heard directly from people on the ground doing the work to help residents. We will not rest until every parent feels confident to give their kid a glass of water knowing that it is safe." 

 

"Boots on the ground, dirt in the air and money being put to work," said Benton Harbor Mayor Marcus Muhammad. "We need to get the lead out of Benton Harbor ASAP and this funding will replace approximately 100 lead service lines right now. My focus is on protecting the residents of this great city and I look forward to 100% of the lead lines being replaced on an aggressive timeline of 18 months to make sure families have access to safe drinking water."    

 

"Every Michigander deserves access to water they can trust to drink and that they can trust to give to their family," said MDHHS Director Elizabeth Hertel. "Replacing the lead service lines in Benton Harbor is a major step in ensuring Benton Harbor residents have safe and clean drinking water. Throughout that process, the department and our numerous state, local and community partners are committed to providing every resource we have available to the families of Benton Harbor." 

"Clean water is not a luxury. It's a basic necessity," said Rep. Fred Upton. "Last October, I helped secure $5.6 million for lead pipe replacement in Benton Harbor, and yesterday, the Mayor and I saw firsthand the hardworking crews excavating dirt and replacing these contaminated lines. This really is an "all-hands-on-deck" effort to ensure folks in Benton Harbor and across the country have access to clean water. Period." 

 

Lead Service Lines 

Benton Harbor Lead Service Replacement 

The estimated cost to replace 100% of LSLs in Benton Harbor is $30 million. The State of Michigan has so far delivered $18.6 million with $10 million in the recently signed FY 2022 budget, $3 million from the MI Clean Water plan, and a $5.6 million Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act grant from the Environmental Protection Agency.  

 

With $18.6 million out of $30 million appropriated to date, Benton Harbor still needs at least $11.4 million to replace 100% of their LSLs in the next 18 months. Today, Governor Whitmer called on the legislature to secure the remaining funding by utilizing the billions in federal funding available to Michigan under the American Rescue Plan. 

 

The FY 2022 budget also includes $15 million in water emergency funding currently being used to supply bottled water to Benton Harbor, among other key uses. 

 

Lead Service Lines 

Under Michigan's Lead and Copper Rule, the strictest nationwide, every community is required to replace 5% of its LSLs every year, meaning 100% replacement in 20 years. However, any community experiencing an action level exceedance, or ALE, is required to replace their LSLs at a rate of 7% per year, meaning 100% completion in just under 15 years. Governor Whitmer has put forward a plan to significantly expedite this timeline by investing an additional $200 million to ensure faster replacement of LSLs in communities across the state. 

 

With additional federal funding expected under the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act making its way through Congress, the State of Michigan will receive billions more to fix its infrastructure, including lead pipes. 

 

Lead 

There is no safe level of lead. Lead exposure harms brain development in children and it causes both short and long-term health problems for adults. The leading causes of lead exposure are drinking water and paint. About 34 million homes have lead-based paint and around 9.2 million have lead pipes. Michigan's top priority is simple: safe drinking water for everyone. Residents should visit MI Lead Safe (michigan.gov/lead) to see all available resources and guides. 

 

Whitmer-Gilchrist Administration Actions 

Since the Whitmer-Gilchrist Administration took office in January 2019, the State of Michigan has invested more in its water infrastructure than the previous five years-from 2014 to 2018-combined.  

 

The governor launched the MI Clean Water plan to invest $700 million to build up drinking and wastewater infrastructure while supporting 10,000 good-paying jobs. The plan addresses high water rates, tackles toxic contaminants like PFAS, builds up sewer and septic systems that can't meet demand, and replaces lead service lines. In addition to MI Clean Water plan, Michigan has invested millions in drinking water, stormwater, and wastewater facilities across the state supporting thousands of local jobs. 

 

The administration established health-based PFAS standards for drinking water, has held polluters accountable, and created statewide positions to pursue environmental justice and advocate for clean water while also continuing to enforce the strongest Lead and Copper Rule in the country. 

 

Clean Water Executive Directive 

Last week, Governor Whitmer signed an Executive Directive to improve Michigan's drinking water protections. The comprehensive, 6-part directive will seek to tighten regulations, deliver more resources, expand community engagement, and more. 

 

To view the full executive directive, click the link below: 

 

ED 2021-09, Ensuring safe drinking water.pdf 

 

Benton Harbor Executive Directive 

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. 

 

Here are some of the actions the ED takes: 

  • Residents of Benton Harbor must continue to have access to free bottled water until further notice. 
  • Residents must be offered free or low-cost lead-related services including but not limited to drinking water testing and health services. 
  • The State of Michigan will collaborate closely with federal partners, county officials, city officials, and community leaders to communicate up-to-date information and leverage every available resource to accelerate lead service line replacement. 

 

To view the full executive directive, click the link below: 

 

ED 2021-06, Benton Harbor.pdf 

 

Federal Investment in Water 

The bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act will send Michigan $1.3 billion to improve water infrastructure, including lead service line replacement, to ensure safe drinking water is available in all communities.   

 

Additionally, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal sends Michigan: 

  • $7.3 billion to fix roads and $563 million for bridge replacement or repairs.   
  • $1 billion to improve public transportation across the state.   
  • $100 million to expand high-speed internet access to an additional 398,000 Michiganders.   
  • $110 million to boost the state's electric vehicle charging infrastructure.   

 

View a video of Governor Whitmer's visit here or by clicking the first image below:

  

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