New water lines are installed at a home along Ogden Avenue in Benton Harbor on Nov. 8.

BENTON HARBOR — Benton Harbor city commissioners Monday approved taking out $3.7 million in bonds to partially pay to replace lead water service lines in the city.

But because the money is coming from federal “Booker funds,” the city won’t have to pay any money, city attorney Richard Racht told commissioners.

He said the money is being made available through the state’s Drinking Water State Revolving Fund for fiscal year 2022. The fund is handled by the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy.

“This is something that was on the agenda for the third quarter of 2022, but because of everything that’s going on, it’s been accelerated,” Racht said. “... It has to be set up as a bond repayment, but it is forgivable.”

Mayor Marcus Muhammad said the money will be used to replace at least 600 lead water service lines in the city. He said the city has been working on getting grants like this one to replace the city’s lead service lines for years.

City Commissioner Ron Singleton said approving this money is the step in the right direction.

“We’ve got to get it done,” he said.

Booker funds were established by the federal government to help disadvantaged communities replace lead service lines.

They are referred to as Booker funding because U.S. Sen. Corey Booker authored the federal legislation, which was signed into law in October 2019.

City commissioners found out in October that the city had received $6.5 million in grants from the state, which included the Booker funds.

Benton Harbor has been required to test its tap water every six months since October 2018, when the city was put under a state advisory for its water samples testing as having 22 parts per billion as its 90th percentile. The federal action level is 15 ppb.

In October, state officials recommended city residents use bottled water for cooking, drinking, brushing teeth, rinsing foods and mixing powdered infant formula out of an abundance of caution until the EPA study is done.

Meanwhile, the state has ramped up efforts to replace all of the city’s lead water service lines in 18 months.

Contact: lwrege@TheHP.com, 932-0361, Twitter: @HPWrege

Staff Writer at The Herald-Palladium