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UPDATE: Benton Harbor water main Break repaired, use of bottled water to continue

Published: Oct. 20, 2021 at 11:20 PM EDT
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THURSDAY EVENING UPDATE FROM THE CITY OF BENTON HARBOR: - The break in the City of Benton Harbor’s water main has been repaired and water is being reintroduced to the city’s pipes, but residents are still encouraged to use bottled water for cooking, drinking, making ice, brushing teeth, washing dishes, rinsing foods, and mixing powdered infant formula.

The city will continue to be under a bottled water advisory out of an abundance of caution to reduce their risk for lead, even after water services is restored.

More from the Benton Harbor City Manager Ellis Mitchell:

The water must be reintroduced slowly to reduce the risk of additional main breaks and help ensure sediments are not stirred up in pipes, protective coating on the pipes is not disrupted, and other problems that may be caused by a fast, high-pressure water flow. Water may begin flowing to homes this afternoon or evening and residents may use it for flushing toilets and other essential activities. But officials ask that flushing of pipes, showering, and other highvolume usages wait until the system is fully pressurized.

The City of Benton Harbor worked with the State of Michigan and the Berrien County Health Department, as well as, many local community partners to provide additional bottled water while service is being fully restored. Bottled water deliveries were made throughout the day to homebound residents who could not visit a distribution site and were in need of emergency water supplies.

Residents can pick up free water on Friday, October 22nd at the Southwest Michigan Community Action Agency, 331 Miller St from 10am-2pm and God’s Household of Faith, 275 Pipestone Rd. from 2pm-6pm. Residents who cannot not visit a distribution site and need emergency water delivery can call the Berrien County Health Department hotline at 1-800-815- 5485 or 2-1-1, which is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The State Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) offers the following guidance for Benton Harbor residents to ensure health and safety in the wake of the water main break:

  • Residents should continue to use bottled water for cooking, drinking, making ice, brushing teeth, washing dishes, rinsing foods, and mixing powdered infant formula.
  • The city will continue to be under a bottled water advisory out of an abundance of caution to reduce the risk of lead even after water services is restored.
  • After the water pressure is restored, residents should flush the water taps for five minutes before using the water for washing hands, showering or bathing.
  • For faucets with removable aerators remove them first – small screens that trap sediments –remove them and clean any debris that has accumulated. How to clean your aerator
  • The water may have discoloration after service is restored. This is due to sediment disruption within the water lines caused by the disruption in pressure. Residents should run water until it is clear before using for showering, bathing and other non-consuming activities.
  • Flush toilets at least twice to move fresh water through the plumbing.
  • For faucets and showers: If possible, remove faucet aerators before flushing. Run cold water taps at full flow for several minutes first, followed by hot water taps.
  • Run an empty load in dishwashers and washing machines to clear the water 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.

THURSDAY MORNING UPDATE FROM THE CITY OF BENTON HARBOR: Due to a large water pipe break on Klock Road around 4 p.m. on Wednesday, the Benton Harbor water system is currently without service.

The city says due to a loss of water pressure, bacteria may enter the water system and the safety cannot be assured. In addition, water is not available for washing and bathing. Bacteria are generally not harmful and are common throughout our environment. However, a failure of pressure can allow disease-causing bacteria to get into tap water. Corrective measures are currently being undertaken to fix the break as soon as possible, and restore water service.

Until then, what should you do?

The city says you should continue to use bottled water for drinking, making ice, brushing teeth, washing dishes, and preparing food.

Tap water may be used for washing and bathing after pressure is restored, and after flushing your taps including sinks and bathtubs for five minutes. However, care must be taken to avoid getting the water in your mouth during bathing, or children’s mouths when bathing them.

If you have severely a compromised immune system, have an infant, are pregnant, or are elderly, you may be at increased risk and should seek advice from your health care providers about drinking this water. If you believe the water has made you ill, please contact a physician immediately.

The city says more information will be sent as soon as possible. Click here for more educational resources.

For more information on this water emergency system, please contact Ellis Mitchell, city manager of Benton Harbor, at 269-927-8400 or emitchell@bhcity.us. General guidelines on ways to lessen the risk of infection by microbes are available from the EPA Safe Drinking Water Hotline at 1 (800) 426-4791.

ORIGINAL STORY:

BENTON HARBOR, Mich. (WNDU) - On Wednesday, a water main break leaves the majority of Benton Harbor without water.

The Berrien County Health Department says the break happened around 4:00 PM, resulting in a system-wide loss of water pressure across the city.

Benton Harbor’s Mayor, Marcus Muhammad, says about 85% of homes were impacted.

“This is the primary water main that connects the water filtration plant to our water tower and it also infuses water to all of the other arteries and veins throughout the city,” Muhammad said. “We have 30,000 cases of water coming into the city weekly. We are still on cord with the distribution sites.”

At this time, it is anticipated that water service will be restored within a day.

Per the health department:

City water customers have previously been recommended to use bottled water, and should continue to use bottled water for cooking, drinking, making ice, brushing teeth, washing dishes, rinsing foods, and mixing powdered infant formula at this time, as well as after water is restored. After the water pressure is restored, residents should flush the water taps for 5 minutes before using the water for washing hands, showering or bathing.

Free bottled water is being made available to City of Benton Harbor residents through pick up locations as well as by home delivery. Bottled water is available on Thursday, October 21st from 8:00am to 10:00am at the Southwest Michigan Community Action Agency (331 Miller Street, Benton Harbor) and from 8:00am to 10:00am at Benton Harbor High School (870 Colfax, Benton Harbor).

Water trucks will also be available at these locations for residents to obtain larger quantities of water using their own containers for household use, including washing, bathing, and flushing toilets. Residents who cannot make one of the distribution sites and are in need of emergency water delivery should call the Berrien County Health Department hotline at 1-800-815-5485 or 2-1-1.

These precautionary actions are being taken due to the potential for bacteria to enter the water safety after a loss of water pressure. Bacteria are generally not harmful and are common throughout our environment, but a failure of pressure can allow disease causing bacteria to enter the tap water. To assure that the water quality meets state drinking water standards for bacteria and safety can be assured, testing will be conducted after pressure is restored.

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