BENTON HARBOR, Mich. (Michigan News Source) – After a concerted and mandated effort by the state, Benton Harbor now has more than 90% of the lead service lines replaced.

This comes nearly a year after Governor Gretchen Whitmer called for a directive ordering all lines to be lead free by 2023. Within the past month, crews have averaged excavating six service lines a day – fixing 171 in August alone. The excavation is moving slower than it has in previous months.

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While about 4,000 water lines have been replaced with copper or lead free pipe, 400 water lines still have to be tested.

“Our top priority here remains guaranteeing safe drinking water for every Michigander, no matter who they are or where they live,” Whitmer said in a statement in November last year. “We will not rest until every community has safe drinking water and every parent feels confident to give their kid a glass of water.”

Reports found that lead levels within Benton Harbor’s drinking water exceeded federal standards beginning in 2018 until July 2022.

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Early efforts to provide residents with water filters proved to be unsuccessful. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, it continues to recommend that residents use bottled water for drinking, cooking, brushing teeth, mixing infant formula, and rinsing foods. The State of Michigan’s Health Department began providing free bottled water to residents in Benton Harbor last September.

According to the EPA, Michigan will continue to provide free bottled water to Benton Harbor residents until all lead service lines are replaced.

“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.”

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To date more than 2,700 water service line replacement agreement forms have been submitted by residents in order to have their pipes inspected and excavated.