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Nearly all lead service lines replaced in Benton Harbor

Benton Harbor City Hall front steps
Lindsey Smith
Michigan Radio
Benton Harbor City Hall

If you live in Benton Harbor, you can find resources for bottled water pickup and home lead inspections online here.

Nearly all of the lead water pipes in the city of Benton Harbor have been replaced.

As of Wednesday, the state reported 4,453 water service lines have been inspected in the city, and any line that contained lead was replaced. Fewer than 40 lines are still left to be inspected before the project is complete.

Benton Harbor mayor Marcus Muhammad says replacing the pipes took coordinated work between the city, state and federal government.

“At the end of it all, it takes money,” Muhammad said, noting the city received tens of millions of dollars from both the state and federal government to replace pipes. “And I know there’s many other cities that are looking and saying that we need that kind of action that we saw in the city of Benton Harbor.”

Governor Gretchen Whitmer first announced a plan to replace all the city’s lead service lines in July of 2021. She said the goal would be to finish the project in 18 months. Now that plan is nearly five months ahead of schedule.

But it comes after more than three years of testing showing high levels of lead in Benton Harbor’s water. Residents sued the state and the federal Environmental Protection Agency last year for “reckless and outrageous” conduct regarding the city’s water supply.

Tests first showed elevated levels of lead in Benton Harbor in 2018.

Despite the progress replacing city pipes, residents may still risk exposure because of lead pipes inside their homes.

Residents can apply to have their homes inspected using an online form here.

The state will also help pay to remediate lead risks inside homes. More information on resources for Benton Harbor residents is available here.

Dustin Dwyer reports enterprise and long-form stories from Michigan Radio’s West Michigan bureau. He was a fellow in the class of 2018 at the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard. He’s been with Michigan Radio since 2004, when he started as an intern in the newsroom.