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Benton Harbor announces public advisory for city water customers

BENTON HARBOR, Mich. -- High lead levels have crept into Benton Harbor water.

Samples from this summer showed that 8 of 30 homes were above the action level of 15 parts per billion for lead.

The city has announced a public advisory for water customers of Benton Harbor.

“What we’re seeing. or what we’re finding is that the connection from the water main to the home service lines are where we’re finding the lead,” explained Benton Harbor City Manager Darwin Watson.

Hope Lewis has lived in her Benton Harbor home for 28 years. She says her home was built in the 30's, and frighteningly her home also doubles as a daycare.

“It’s kinda hectic when you’re running a daycare you got the kids, you got your family, you got to eat you gotta drink,” Lewis said.

“Exposure to lead is dangerous, it is serious for your children. It can cause negative health effects. It can cause learning problems behavior problems, it can decrease IQ, and it can cause slow growth,” said Dr. Rick Johansen, MD. Berrien County Medical Director.

“Terrifying,” is how Lewis felt as she considered the possibility that the kids she cares for are exposed to high lead levels.

But city officials say not to panic.

“We have not seen any increase at all in elevated blood levels in the children in Benton Harbor, or have we seen it in the county at large,” said Johansen.

However, Johansen says there has been a downward trend in blood lead levels in Berrien County.

So what can you do now?

You can get your child tested for lead, and reduce risk of exposure to lead by flushing your water before you drink.

Experts recommend running your water for 3 to 5 minutes to a cold temperature to flush out the highest lead levels.

But most importantly, get your water tested.

The city doesn’t know which homes have dangerous pipes, which is why they’re offering free lead testing.

“This issue is going to spread, not just Benton Harbor. The infrastructure of Michigan homes is aging as we speak,” Benton Harbor Mayor Marcus Muhammad said.

The city received a 300 thousand dollar state grant in May to replace lead and galvanized water lines, which will be utilized once more data is collected.

Learn more about city water testing, here and lead education, here

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