BENTON HARBOR, Mich. — Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist outlined Thursday morning the state's plan for addressing issue's with Benton Harbor's water system.
Residents have been urged to use bottled water because of elevated levels of lead in the city's tap water.
Watch Gilchrist's press conference here:
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has signed an executive directive that implements an "all-hands-on-deck, whole-of-government approach" to address the issue.
The state also plans to expedite lead service line replacements using federal, state and local resources, with the goal of replacing 100% of lead service lines in Benton Harbor in 18 months.
"Today's executive directive is a step forward in the important work we have done in Benton Harbor," Gilchrist said. "The directive will implement a whole-of-government approach that brings together state, federal, local and municipal governments, and organizations on the ground, in the community, to solve short-term problems and replace Benton Harbor's lead service lines as quickly as possible. Residents of Benton Harbor deserve access to clean, safe drinking water, and today's executive directive mobilizes the resouces of government to achieve that goal."
Officials submitted a request to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food and Nutrition Service to confirm authorization of WIC ready-to-feed formula.
It would allow eligible WIC clients in the city currently receiving powder or liquid concentrate formula manufactured in ready-to-feed form access to formula that doesn't require mixing with water.
Ready-to-feed formulas would be redeemed like current formula benefits, using WIC EBT cards at authorized vendors.
A notification was also submitted to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid services to expand use of Medicaid Child Health Insurance Program Health Service Initiative funds for lead prevention services for Benton Harbor households.
Once the notification process is complete, households with children under 19 enrolled in a Medicaid Health Plan, or a pregnant person enrolled in a Medicaid Health Plan, would be eligible for a free environmental investigation into lead hazards within the home.
Other actions the executive directive takes include:
- Residents of Benton Harbor must continue to have access to free bottled water until further notice.
- Residents must be offered free or low-cost lead-related services including but not limited to drinking water testing and health services.
- The state will collaborate with federal partners, county officials, city officials and community leaders to communicate up-to-date information and leverage every available resource to accelerate lead service line replacement.