Drinking Water Testing Continues In Benton Harbor

Drinking water in more than 100 City of Benton Harbor homes has been tested by EPA and Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) as part of an effort to ensure residents have access to the highest quality of drinking water.

“We are working together with multiple agencies to fully understand and address the water issues facing Benton Harbor residents,” said Elizabeth Hertel, MDHHS director. “We are addressing this situation with all the tools that we have at our disposal including providing free bottled water, helping residents pay past due water and sewer bills, offering free blood lead tests and testing drinking water in homes. Our goal is to ensure each Benton Harbor family can get a clean, safe glass of water from the tap in their home and we will be here, working with this community until that goal is met.”

Water testing will help EPA and MDHHS determine if lead is present in water of individual homes; if it is coming from pipes or plumbing fixtures in the home; the potential presence and size of lead particles; and how well filters work to reduce lead in Benton Harbor drinking water in relation to the city’s specific water chemistry. This is a collaborative effort with support from the Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) and the Berrien County Health Department.

There are several testing activities underway in the City of Benton Harbor and a new flyer has been developed to explain the different tests. The three main studies are:

  • Filter study – Testing to determine if certified filters are working as expected to reduce lead.
  • Sequential Study – Testing to determine if lead is present in a home’s water and if it’s coming from the home’s plumbing or water service line.
  • Particle Study – Testing to determine how much lead is present in small particles in drinking water.

Certified filters that are properly installed and maintained are very effective in reducing lead concentrations in drinking water, according to the most recent science and studies.

As a cautionary measure, EPA and MDHHS are evaluating the state of the science and acting to further understand filter effectiveness in relation to Benton Harbor’s specific water chemistry. This study is one of the many ways that EPA and MDHHS are working with the community and local and other state partners to evaluate public health risks from lead exposure.

The agencies will continue to be involved to support and monitor the effectiveness of the response so far and the development of long-term solutions in Benton Harbor.

Free bottled water continues to be provided by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) and local, paid residents as City of Benton Harbor residents are being encouraged to use bottled water for cooking, drinking, brushing teeth, rinsing foods and mixing powdered infant formula. This action is part of an accelerated, across-the-board effort to reduce the risk of exposure to lead in drinking water while the city replaces all lead service lines.

Brotherhood of All Nations, 1286 Monroe Street, has added an opportunity for residents to get water on Saturday, Nov. 27 between 12 and 2 p.m. Residents will also be allowed to get additional cases of water this week as distribution sites will not be open on Thanksgiving or the Friday after Thanksgiving.

Additional water quantities will also be available during deliveries to the homebound or those without transportation.

The upcoming schedule for bottled water pickup is:

Saturday, Nov. 27

  • Brotherhood of All Nations, 1286 Monroe Street, 12 – 2 p.m.
  • Harbor of Hope Seventh-Day Adventist Church, 769 Pipestone Street, 4 – 6 p.m.

Sunday, Nov. 28

  • Abundant Life Church of God, 693 Columbus Avenue, 3 – 5 p.m.
  • Brotherhood of All Nations, 1286 Monroe Street, 4 – 6 p.m.

Monday, Nov. 29

  • Southwest Community Action Agency, 331 Miller Street, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. (Self-service)
  • Abundant Life Church of God, 693 Columbus Avenue, noon – 2 p.m.
  • NEW – Berrien County MDHHS/Huntington Bank, 401 8th Street (MDHHS office), 2 – 5 p.m.

Tuesday, Nov. 30

  • Abundant Life Church of God, 693 Columbus Avenue, noon – 2 p.m.
  • Ebenezer Baptist Church, 214 E. Britain Avenue, 4 – 6 p.m.

The ongoing response in Benton Harbor includes the city, Berrien County Health Department, local community organizations, MDHHS and the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy. This action is part of an accelerated, across-the-board effort to reduce the risk of exposure to lead in drinking water while the city replaces all lead service lines.

Additional dates and locations for bottled water pick up will be added to make sure community needs are met. Information will be posted on Michigan.gov/MiLeadSafe.

To ensure the continued success of bottled water distribution locations in Benton Harbor and to recognize the city residents who have been stepping up to donate their time and talent, the State of Michigan has partnered with local agencies to pay city residents who work at state-supported bottled water distribution sites. Individuals who want to serve as community ambassadors to help distribute water should connect with an established distribution site. Individuals or groups who want to serve as unpaid volunteers can sign up on the United Way’s online platform.

MDHHS is engaging in a long-term effort to eliminate lead action level exceedances, educate communities on the effects of lead in drinking water, and remove lead service lines. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer called for the replacement of lead service lines in Benton Harbor in 18 months and the Whitmer-Gilchrist Administration has provided just under $20 million to Benton Harbor to speed up their service line replacement timeline.

There is no cost to City of Benton Harbor residents for lead service line replacement. To assist with assuring the work can be completed as soon as possible, residents are encouraged to complete the Water Service Line Replacement Agreement available online. Contractors cannot begin work on any property without property owner authorization. Completed forms can be returned to Abonmarche, 95 West Main Street, Benton Harbor, MI 49022 or emailed to bvasher@abonmarche.com.

These efforts also include recently approved funds to remove lead from homes in the city. Families living in Benton Harbor can apply for this service by filling out and mailing in an application that is available online. Residents also can call 866-691-5323 to obtain information.

For questions about lead, MDHHS can be reached at 866-691-5323 Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.