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MDHHS won’t say filtered Benton Harbor water is safe to drink, but residents can decide what’s best for themselves

For five months, state health officials have told Benton Harbor residents not to drink their tap water. The warning came after an inspection at the city’s water treatment plant uncovered numerous violations related to disinfection. Michigan’s Department of Health and Human Services also cited ongoing elevated lead levels. But now that safety message is shifting.

Teams of workers from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency went into nearly 200 Benton Harbor homes to get water samples late last year. Tera Fong is the Water Division Director for the EPA region that includes Michigan.

“We found that properly operated filters were successful in reducing lead considerably and consistently with the performance expectations of those filters. We did see firsthand that that filters were often not operated and installed properly,” Fong said earlier this month.

Fong says it would be helpful if someone could show residents how to properly install and maintain filters, but they do work on lead. Filters are still available for free at the local health department.

What Fong did not say was whether the filtered water is now safe to drink.

Lindsey Smith helps lead the station'sAmplify Team. She previously served as Michigan Public's Morning News Editor, Investigative Reporter and West Michigan Reporter.