Work continues to replace lead pipes in Benton Harbor

BENTON HARBOR, Mich. -- Construction always involves some backup for drivers and noise for those living around it, but this project is special – the reward, more than just a completed project, but clean water.    

“What they’re doing is they’re pulling the cooper pipe through the conduit which will then hook up the water supply,” said U.S. Rep. Fred Upton.

One-by-one, old lead service lines are being taken out of the ground and replaced with copper pipes. 

It’s construction Benton Harbor had slowly been able to start in recent months, but couldn’t tackle with this kind of speed.  

Monday’s work was the result of $5.6 million awarded to the city by the EPA last year, 11 months before the agency was petitioned to intervene by 20 organizations under the Safe Water Drinking Act. 

“This $5.6 million is going to take care of 888 homes, that’s major, now we don’t have to nickel and dime the work, we can go in full throttle,” said Mayor Marcus Muhammad.  

Congressman Upton helped secure that money from the EPA and joined Mayor Muhammad as construction kicked off.  

But it wasn’t the only reason for his visit, Upton also announced Congress requested information from the EPA Friday on its action thus far in Benton Harbor’s water crisis. 

Including their involvement since the city’s Action Level Exceedance in 2018, how they plan to help Benton Harbor get back in compliance with the Safe Drinking Water Act and an update on testing of those faucet filters residents had been told were effective. 

“That’s why we need an aggressive testing plan, so residents can know whether their system is safe or not,” said Rep. Upton. 

Mayor Muhammad said the EPA also started sampling the water in homes Monday with the eventual plan of surveying every one in the city. 

“We know that it’s not every home, so that’s why the testing is so important, we want to prioritize what homes we need to laser in on to address immediately,” said Mayor Muhammad.

In addition to the $5.6 million from the EPA and the just under $20 million Benton Harbor will receive from the state, the city will also get some funding from Congress’s newly passed infrastructure bill.

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