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Benton Harbor lead problems continue

NOW: Benton Harbor lead problems continue

BENTON HARBOR, Mich. -- Berrien County officials are warning the public after a recent test found that lead levels still aren’t down.

The city’s most recent water supply test shows unsafe lead levels from samples collected from 47 households from January through June of this year.

“The samples that they gathered it was found that the 90th percentile of the samples exceeded the action level limit which is 15 parts per billion for lead in the water. Their 90th percentile was 27 parts per billion,” said Berrien County Health Department Communication Manager Gillian Conrad.

 “I’m not gonna drink the water, and I’m not gonna allow my family to still drink it either,” said Benton Harbor resident Moneshaniea Mckinney.

The latest sample is part of ongoing testing in compliance to the Lead and Copper Rule of Drinking Water Act for the State of Michigan.

Officials say October 2018 was the first Action Level Exceedance for lead in Benton Harbor, and the cause is simple.

“I think it really boils down to aging infrastructure,” Conrad said.   

“The only real source of lead in drinking water supplies at least for sure in Benton Harbor but probably all over the country is a lead piece of piping used as a service connection to the city water main into and up to the house and sometimes in houses,” said Benton Harbor Water Plant Director Michael O’Malley.

“We know that there are lead service lines all over the State of Michigan as well as the country. This isn’t a problem that’s unique to Benton Harbor,” explained Conrad.

The city says steps have been taken to reduce resident’s exposure to lead.

“We put the corrosion correction in and that was key,” O’Malley said.

“The new corrosion control measures into the water supply will help prevent those lead pipes from leaching lead into the water,” said Conrad.

The city has even started replacing lead service lines.

But, officials say that it will take a year or up to 18 months for lead levels to return to acceptable limits.

“We’re going to keep exceeding the action level until uh until the lines are replaced or more importantly the corrosion protection is at full strength,” O’Malley explained.

The Berrien County Health Department continues to offer blood lead testing and monitor blood lead levels in children under age six. Officials say that there have not been increases in elevated blood lead levels in Benton Harbor children and trends actually show a decrease since 2011.

The health department also offers water filters and replacements for Benton Harbor water customers.

Health officials ask residents, especially families or those who may be pregnant to take steps to reduce lead exposure.

Officials ask households to use a water filter to remove lead.

The health department says that if you have not used your water for 6 or more hours, you need to flush your pipes.

You can do that by running faucets for five minutes, taking a shower, running a load of laundry, or washing dishes.

It’s recommended that you use cold tap water for drinking or cooking and use bottled water for baby formula.

You can pick up your water filter at these times and places:


First Monday of each month

4:00PM-6:00PM

Harbor of Hope Church

769 Pipestone, Benton Harbor


Third Thursday of each month

4:00PM-6:00PM

Benton Harbor Public Library

213 E. Wall St., Benton Harbor


Monday-Friday

8:30AM-5:00PM

Berrien County Health Department

2149 E. Napier Ave., Benton Harbor


Residents with questions are can call the Water Response Hotline at 1-800-815-5485.

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