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Water distribution sites added following water main break in Benton Harbor

Benton Harbor Water Distribution
Posted at 4:53 PM, Oct 21, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-21 17:40:44-04

BENTON HARBOR, Mich. — Crews in Benton Harbor have finally repaired the water main break that happened late Wednesday afternoon.

It comes after high lead levels were detected in the city's water supply over the last few years.

Cars lined up at different water distribution locations all day on Thursday. Free cases of bottled water were handed out as well as non-potable water for flushing toilets.

This comes on top of already not being able to use their water due to the lead contamination.

"As long as I have the supplies to do it, I can do it. I can make it work. I had water, because I had just picked up nine cases. I knew how to pour the water in the toilet to flush it, so my life has not been affected yet," said Benton Harbor resident Rosetta Valentine.

The Wednesday water main break cut off water service for most Benton Harbor residents, making them unable to shower, flush toilets and even clean clothes.

Sylvester Bownes, who is also without water, said he has been trying to stay prepared for anything else coming his way.

"I’ve been using water bottles for a while. When it comes to cooking and clean[ing], this is my first rodeo," said Sylvester Bownes, another Benton Harbor resident.

Pop-up distributions erected overnight Wednesday getting Benton Harbor residents the water they needed.

Volunteers said as of midday Thursday, around 300–400 cars had already come through for cases of water.

"The state is a big part of this. They are really kind of directly a lot of this. They tell us what they need where and when, and we’re like, ‘We got it,’" said United Way of Southwest Michigan's Director of Volunteer Engagement Debbie Ramirez.

Due to lead contamination, the state of Michigan previously announced it would deliver 35,000 cases to warehouses around the city each week until safe, clean drinking water was available.

United Way of Southwest Michigan is assisting in those distribution efforts.

"People, they’re working. They have busy lives. They have to have something simple and easy, a great place that is convenient for them to come get it at a time that works for them. The ability to have distributions all across the city at a variety of different times whether it is Saturdays, Saturday afternoons, Monday mornings or Wednesday mornings, we just need to make it as easy as we can for the people who are really struggling right now," said Ramirez.

Residents said they'll take what they can get while they need it, all trying to stay positive in the process.

"I applaud Benton Harbor for what they’re doing in giving residents water, making sure they have enough water," said Valentine.

"We just pray to God and see what the outcome will be, but right now we’re just praying," said another Benton Harbor resident Jerald Clark.

Just before 3 p.m. on Thursday, city officials announced crews were beginning to refill the water system now that the break has been repaired.

They said it will take up to 24 hours to restore pressure before water reaches all customers. Until full water pressure returns, they ask residents to refrain from flushing, showering or other usages that require large amounts of water.

RELATED: Benton Harbor residents: Pick up bottled water at these locations (Oct. 20–24)

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