Gov. Whitmer visits Benton Harbor as lead line replacement project hits 80 percent completion

Gov. Whitmer listens to Benton Harbor residents about the lead service line replacement project on Sunday afternoon.
Published: Aug. 7, 2022 at 11:21 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

BENTON HARBOR, Mich. (WNDU) - Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer was in Benton Harbor early Sunday afternoon to observe the progress on the city’s lead service lines (LSLs) replacement project.

She was joined by Benton Harbor Mayor Marcus Muhammad and other local leaders in talking with residents about the progress that has been made on the Michigan Clean Water plan.

“Every Michigander deserves safe drinking water,” said Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer. “I am committed to implementing a whole-of-government approach to solve the challenges facing Benton Harbor. We must complete these critical upgrades to lead service lines as quickly as possible to ensure families have access to safe drinking water. We will not rest until every parent feels confident to give their kid a glass of water, knowing that it is safe.”

The project’s $500 million investment was made without raising residents’ taxes.

The project is around 80% complete, and crews from five contractors have replaced more than 400 lead service lines with copper over the past 30 days and are averaging 15 lead service line replacements per day.

“That’s over 3,600 lead service lines that have been removed and replaced with brand new, free copper lines for the residents,” said Scott Dean, communications director for the Michigan Dept. Of Environmental Quality. “That leaves us with less than 900 lines to go, and what’s really encouraging is the cooperation and the partnership with the community that we are seeing.”

“I think the community reaction was very positive,” said Nicholas Gunn, community and media ambassador for Benton Harbor Team Solutions. “Everyone in this community has a stern message: we need to get the lead out of Benton Harbor.”

Under current law, the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy required Benton Harbor to remove 7% of its LSLs in 12 months, beginning July 1, 2021. Governor Whitmer worked with lawmakers to alter that goal to 100% replacement in 18 months (March 2023).

It’s free for Benton Harbor residents to sign up for the removal of their lead lines, and the city also offers free home inspection and free blood lead testing.

Residents can also talk to the city about removing lead fixtures from their homes and other services that will improve the quality of their water.

“We encourage folks, if you haven’t signed up to get your line replaced, please do so,” said Dean. “It’s free, and it’s really important. We want to make sure people are protected from lead, and that’s why in addition to the removal of these lead service lines, we continue to recommend that people use filters and bottled water which is available. We have distributions for bottled water.”

Copyright 2022 WNDU. All rights reserved.