Nearly 50% of lead pipes have been replaced in Benton Harbor

NOW: Nearly 50% of lead pipes have been replaced in Benton Harbor

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BENTON HARBOR, Mi. -- It's been six months since work began replacing the old underground lead pipes preventing Benton Harbor residents from having access to safe drinking water, but the crews working all over the city are making steady progress.

Just a little more than three weeks ago, the state of Michigan announced 36% of the nearly four-thousand pipes have been checked and replaced-- and today-- they joined local leaders on Jennings Avenue to announce a new, critical milestone. 

“One-thousand-two-hundred and fifty homes have had their lines replaced. We’re halfway done," said Congressman Fred Upton. 

But even with the work moving along with five contractors now digging up yards and streets-- the director of Michigan's Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) Liesl Clark does not want to say they are ahead of schedule. 

“While we’re at fifty-percent right now, I can’t guarantee the second fifty-percent is going to happen at the same amount of speed," Clark said. "Typically, you get the easier ones done first, so I would anticipate that we have some tougher ones towards the end.”

Despite tempering expectations, Clark was quick to point out they would not have even been here without the hard work of the construction companies replacing the lead lines. 

“This is an opportunity for sure to celebrate," she said. ?All of this is a testament to the work of city and the contractors getting the job done.”

But there was no time to celebrate for the workers of B&Z company-- the only contractors hired from Benton Harbor-- who continued replacing the lead pipes on Jennings Avenue. 

“I like doing the work and we don’t go far from home, so we were happy to pick up a couple of sections,” said Bruce Binger, president of B&Z Company. 

“It’s just been fabulous know that, being a part of B&Z and working and supplying the water lines for the community and my friends and they actually are excited," said Darrell Collins, a coordinator hired to work on the lead line replacement with B&Z, proud to be  a part of the work benefitting the city. "It makes me feel wonderful being a part of this and knowing that we’re getting clean water and getting the lead out," he said.

The EPA also announced that they completed their study on the lead faucet filters-- which showed they do work as intended to remove lead from drinking water. Those filters will be made available by the Berrien County Health Department. 

EGLE advised some residents to use lead faucet filters even after having their lead lines replaced, in case there are old, lead pipes inside their homes that aren't being replaced by the city.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services will also be offering lead home inspections for Benton Harbor residents who are concerned about the presence of lead.

More information can be found here: Mi Lead Safe (michigan.gov)

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