Progress slows on Benton Harbor lead service line replacements, as project nears completion

NOW: Progress slows on Benton Harbor lead service line replacements, as project nears completion

BENTON HARBOR, Mich. – It’s been over a year since the start of the Benton Harbor Water Crisis, and volunteers are still passing out bottles of water.

Despite much of the work to replace the lead service lines moving well ahead of schedule, the project—which is just over 99% complete— seems to have slowed down in recent months.

According to the lead service line replacement dashboard, the last service line was replaced a month ago, and thirty-two properties still need to either be inspected or have lead lines replaced.

Residents are growing impatient.

“The water crisis really has been going on too long here in the city of Benton Harbor,” said Alfred, a Benton Harbor resident volunteering to pass out water bottles at the Boys and Girls Club. He’s lived in the area since he was three years old, and feels the project has dragged on.

“Talk to the mayor, your congressman, the president! I don’t know, but somebody needs to do something,” he said.

Bruce and Charlie Binger, with B&Z Company—the only local contractors working to replace the lead service lines—said that the project, however, is pretty much complete.

“The lead’s gone,” said Bruce. “We’ve found no lead to a house. It’s either been galvanized or something else, but the lead lines are all from the main to the property line.”

But while the main lead service lines have been replaced, what about the thirty-two properties that need to be inspected?

Charlie explained “The last thirty-two are, maybe the house was condemned so you couldn’t get inside of it. We have been seeing some of the condemned houses have been sold and the new owners are trying to fix them up and we’re getting called to get out and do them, but it’s going to be one here, one there. It’s not like when we were just pounding them out every day, like before. It’s just loose ends, odds and ends. You couldn’t get a hold of somebody, someone was a hold out, the city is just trying to figure out how to get the last handful done, which is going to be real slow.”

While the bulk of the lead lines have been replaced with copper pipes, Benton Harbor residents are still being urged to use bottled water until the entire city has been completed.

Until then, volunteers like Alfred will still be passing out water bottles—doing what he can for his hometown.

“Oh yeah!” Alfred said. “I’m going to do it until it’s over.”

The city is urging all residents to get a free lead inspection at their home or apartment, for other sources as well, such as old, lead paint.

More information can be found here

The lead service line replacement dashboard can be accessed here.

Share this article: