Governor Whitmer Announces More Than 80% of City of Benton Harbor Lead Service Lines Replaced

Aug. 12, 2022
Governor Whitmer announces more than 80% of city of Benton Harbor lead service lines replaced as work continues ahead of schedule

Governor Whitmer visited Benton Harbor to meet with homeowners and inspect the progress made on replacing the city’s lead service lines (LSLs). During the visit, Governor Whitmer announced that the campaign to accelerate replacement of aging lead water service lines is ahead of schedule with 80% of the lead lines in the city having now been replaced with new copper lines. 

"Every Michigander deserves safe drinking water," said 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.”

To date, more than 3,600 water service lines have been replaced or verified non-lead as of Wednesday morning, leaving less than 900 to complete. The crews have replaced more than 400 lead service lines with copper over the past 30 days and are currently averaging 15 lead service line replacements per day. Five contractors currently have seven crews working throughout the city. Progress on the project is updated daily on the Benton Harbor project dashboard.

“It is exciting to hear that we are close to having all of the lead service lines replaced in Benton Harbor,” said Leslie Pickell, resident of Benton Harbor. “When the lines were replaced at my home the process went smoothly and efficiently. This is a good thing for our community and I truly look forward to the day when there is not a single lead service line in my city.” 

Moving Faster in Benton Harbor

Under current law, the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy pro-actively ordered Benton Harbor to remove 7% of its LSLs in 12 months, beginning July 1, 2021. However, Governor Whitmer worked with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to expedite the timeline with a goal of 100% replacement in 18 months (by March 2023).

The funding in the Building Michigan Together Plan signed by Governor Whitmer directs $45 million to the City of Benton Harbor for infrastructure improvements including replacement of all the city’s lead water service lines. The funding ensures the city will have resources to fully replace all lead service lines by the spring of 2023 as ordered by Governor Whitmer late last year.

More than 2,600 “Right of Access” Water Service Line Replacement Agreement forms have been completed by the 2,900 current water customers in Benton Harbor – a necessary step to allow the contractors to access private properties to perform the work. The Water Service Line Replacement Agreement may be accessed, filled out and submitted online. Forms may also be submitted to Abonmarche, 95 West Main Street, Benton Harbor, MI 49022 or emailed to Sandy Riehl at [email protected]. For questions, call 269-926-4557.

Investing in Water Infrastructure

Since taking office, Governor Whitmer has invested more resources into water infrastructure than the previous 5 years combined. These investments support good-paying jobs and ensure every parent can give their kid a glass of drinking water and know it’s safe.

The Building Michigan Together Plan includes nearly $2 billion to address critical water infrastructure needs. More than $1 billion for drinking water improvements, including:

  • At least $325 million to replace lead service lines, including 100% of lead service lines in Benton Harbor.
  • $55 million to help communities tackle toxic contaminants like PFAS.
  • $43 million in assistance for small and disadvantaged communities.

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