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State of Michigan pledges 'all-hands-on-deck' approach to clean, safe drinking water in Benton Harbor

Benton Harbor Drinking Water
Posted at 6:14 PM, Oct 14, 2021

BENTON HARBOR, Mich. — The state of Michigan is taking action in Benton Harbor to ensure residents there have clean and safe water to drink.

The response comes after high lead levels were detected in the city's water supply.

READ MORE: Benton Harbor urged to use bottled water due to lead risk

It's an "all-hands-on-deck" approach as Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist explained it in a press conference on Thursday.

The state is hoping to have every lead service line in Benton Harbor replaced within the next 18 months, pledging to deliver over 20 semitruck loads of bottled water each week until the water is safe to drink.

"Every person in the state of Michigan deserves access to clean and safe drinking water, and every community deserves lead-free pipes," said State of Michigan Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist.

Community members said it's a problem they've tried to bring attention to for years — high lead levels in the city's drinking water.

"We have been working on this issue and problem with the resources and the money that we had, but now given the all-out effort from the state, this just allows for us to intensify in solving the problem," said Benton Harbor's Mayor Marcus Muhammad.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed an executive directive that orders a "whole government approach" to bring clean and safe drinking water to Benton Harbor.

"Under this executive directive, state departments must work quickly to take all appropriate action to ensure that the residents of Benton Harbor continue to have access to free bottled water," said Lieutenant Governor Gilchrist.

The state said they'll deliver around 35,000 cases each week to an in-city warehouse, schools and the most vulnerable populations.

"We understand the disruption that this brings to your lives and the anxiety that it brings," said Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Director Elizabeth Hertel.

The directive will also provide community members with free or low-cost lead-related services including healthcare.

"Departments will take all appropriate action to leverage available state resources to support the city in replacing lead service lines quickly, providing technical assistance to manage resources, including infrastructure projects and assisting the city with matters of contracting and procurement and financing of the related to the accelerated water infrastructure upgrade work," said Gilchrist.

Funding for the action will come from the state budget, unappropriated federal dollars given to the state of Michigan and additional federal dollars from the infrastructure package.

"This is a problem that we seek to end, and we are seeking it to end quickly, and so this escalation is what we think will meet the moment," said Lieutenant Governor Gilchrist.

As of now, lead line replacement is expected to begin next month.

For more information on bottled water distribution efforts and/or other supplies, click here.

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