Lead pipe replacement project near halfway mark in Benton Harbor
BENTON HARBOR, Mich. (WNDU) - State and federal officials announced the massive lead pipe overhauling in Benton Harbor is almost halfway finished.
At a Tuesday news conference, EPA scientists said 1,254 households now have safe piping since the project began last fall.
Liesl Clark, director of the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) added a “light spring” has enabled contractors, like Benton Harbor-based B&Z Company, to stay on schedule and fix the crisis.
“It affects me greatly because we’re drinking the water, for one of them. Two, I live here. And we do want fresh, clean water,” explained Darrell Collins, scheduling coordinating at B&Z Company.
B&Z Company said one crew is able to tackle as many as three households per scheduled work day, depending on how well concrete can be broken up.
City manager Ellis Mitchell said the progress of the project is made possible thanks to federal and state investment.
“You have a crisis when you don’t have the money - and you don’t have the help. We have the help, and I want to thank you all for coming. I want to thank you for coming to see what your money is doing,” praised Mitchell.
Rep. Fred Upton (R-St. Joseph) explained how important federal funding has been for improving the water supply in Benton Harbor.
“You know, the money that we did in the infrastructure bill that the president signed last year is helping not only now for the whole state, but you’ll remember that it was several years ago, when we actually got a $5 million check from EPA,” stated Upton.
EPA scientist Candice Bauer reaffirmed water filters that were distributed to city residents to remove lead are working properly.
“Filters were certified to remove lead and performed as we expected them to,” said Bauer.
Clark, with the state’s EGLE department, said Benton Harbor residents can continue to have free lead detection tests performed on their homes since pipes are not the only source of contamination. She said soil, fixtures, and paint are also concerns.
The project is expected to be complete by spring 2023.
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