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Benton Harbor making progress on service line replacements

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

The city of Benton Harbor is making progress in replacing lead service lines contaminating the city’s drinking water.

Since elevated levels of lead were discovered in Benton Harbor’s tap water, the city has inspected or replaced roughly one in five water service lines. The goal is to complete the work by Spring 2023.

Hugh McDiarmid is a spokesman for the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy. He says the pace of pipe replacements picked up last month.

“They’ve got several more contractors on board, so the pace has really picked up and we expect it to pick up more through the Spring as the weather gets warmer and the last contractor comes on board,” says McDiarmid.

McDiarmid notes that Benton Harbor is not the first Michigan city to have to respond with a service line replacement program.

“We’ve taken the lessons of Flint and hopefully applied them here in terms of getting the lead pipes replaced very quickly and effectively and with minimum interference to the residents of the city,” says McDiarmid.

Getting homeowner approval for inspections could be a hold up. McDiarmid says to date, only about 50 percent of Benton Harbor property owners have given permission to inspect their service lines.

The state is also expanding a lead abatement services program to all homes in the city. The program assesses homes for the presence of lead hazards in paint, dust and soil.

“Our goal is to assess every home in Benton Harbor for the presence of lead hazards, “ said MDHHS Director Elizabeth Hertel.

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.
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