$20M coming to Benton Harbor to replace all lead service lines
BENTON HARBOR, Mich. — Benton Harbor is getting long awaited funds to replace all lead pipes in the city after years of battling high drinking water levels.
The city had already received $17 million in funding from various organizations like the EPA and Clean Water State Revolving Fund.
This new $20 million funding comes from the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes & Energy (EGLE).
“No amount of lead is safe and that’s why we’ve got to get lead service lines out of the system,” said Liesl Clark, Director of Michigan EGLE. “How can we get filters to people as fast as possible, make improvements to the distribution system, support the work happening at the water system.”
In 2018, 10% of Benton Harbor’s tap water samples exceeded the action level of lead.
Since then, the state has increased monitoring efforts, provided filtration systems to residents and kept track of blood level trends in children.
Benton Harbor has been doing its own service line replacements for months, but thanks to this new funding, the project’s completion date now moves from 20 years to around five.
“Nobody will be left behind, we can rid ourselves of lead pipes from the curb to the house, it’s a tremendous game changer when you think about a whole neighborhood that might be affected,” said Duane Seats, Benton Harbor Mayor Pro Tem.
Lead pipes will be replaced with materials like copper or brass.
In the meantime, the Berrien County Health Department will continue helping residents keep their water safe.
“Free filters that they can attach to their sink that will filter out that risk of lead, we’ll continue that program as well as the replacement cartridges, the health department is an invested partner,” said Gillian Conrad, MPH, Communications Manager at the Berrien County Health Department.
The state said Benton Harbor has failed to meet the regulatory standard for lead for six consecutive sampling periods.
With this partnership, a permanent solution is on the horizon.
“Whether you’re a millionaire or on welfare, you deserve clean drinking water,” said Seats.
City officials have been adamant that the water leaving their plant is clean, which is why replacing the pipes is crucial.
The health department always has filters available for residents to pick up or have mailed.
They should be replaced every three months.