BENTON HARBOR, Mich. (Michigan News Source) – Benton Harbor passed federal lead water testing for the second consecutive year, maintaining lead levels at 1 part per billion (ppb) according to the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE). 

After water testing in the area showed higher than healthy lead levels, the city has been rapidly removing and replacing more than 4,000 lead service lines across the area due to Directive 2021-06 from fall of 2021.  This past week, the project to replace the lines with galvanized iron residential service lines has also been completed according to EGLE. 

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Similarly, the city’s most recent six month lead check up indicates that it is well below the state and federal limit of 15 ppb, marking the fifth consecutive time in over two years that the city’s 90th percentile for lead has been at or below the 15 ppb – a 90th percentile calculation of 1 ppb means 90 percent of the test results used in the calculation came in at or below 1 ppb.  After the last six month test from July 1 through Dec. 31, 2023 according to EGLE, more than 60 sampling locations were within the 1 ppb calculation, and there are no longer any homes or businesses in the city known to be connected with lead service lines. 

“The data collected over the past two years clearly shows that the drinking water supplied to Benton Harbor homes consistently meets the stringent standards of the Safe Drinking Water Act,” said Phil Roos, director of EGLE. “With replacement of all known lead and galvanized residential service lines complete, our focus remains on helping the people of Benton Harbor identify other sources of lead in their homes and ensure that the city is positioned to continue to provide drinking water that Benton Harbor citizens can be confident in both now and into the future.”

EGLE technical experts continue to consult with staff at the Benton Harbor water plant to further improve operations at the plant including corrosion control techniques.

“Corrosion control is achieved by introducing phosphate into the water supply to coat the interior of lead pipes or fixtures – reducing the amount of lead that dissolves when water passes through those materials,” EGLE officials said in a statement. 

Michigan adopted the nation’s toughest lead rules for drinking water in 2018 after the Flint Water Crisis, initiating the Lead and Copper Rule (LCR) requiring that all lead service lines in the state be removed. 

Free bottled water has been provided by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) for City of Benton Harbor residents for multiple purposes including cooking, drinking, brushing teeth. 

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The city is funding much of the work through a $45 million American Rescue Plan Act grant. Residents can learn more about reducing lead exposures in the home by visiting Michigan’s  Mi Lead Safe website.