BENTON HARBOR — Free lead testing is now available to Benton Harbor businesses.

Cornerstone Alliance announced a partnership with Huntington Bank and Villa Environmental consultants to offer testing for Benton Harbor-based businesses on Wednesday.

Cornerstone CEO Rob Cleveland said 12 businesses have already submitted applications on Thursday, the launch day of the program.

“The intent of this program is to provide clarity and validate for the customers of that business that that establishment has safe, clean drinking water,” Cleveland said.

It extends to businesses located in a commercially-zoned property in the city of Benton Harbor. Interested parties can apply at cstonealliance.org/testing and fill out a short survey.

Residents and those operating businesses out of their homes should contact the city of Benton Harbor for free testing.

“We are grateful to Cornerstone Alliance for initiating a water testing program for the business community,” Benton Harbor Mayor Marcus Muhammad said in a news release. “It will make it easier on the city so we can devote our resources to helping the residential community get access to safe drinking water.”

After the businesses have verified they’re located on commercial property in Benton Harbor, Cornerstone will send their contact to Villa Environmental, who will schedule a testing. Once the tests are conducted, it will take eight to 10 days to get back results, Cleveland said.

Villa Environmental is based in Benton Harbor and have been providing testing at Cornerstone and other local businesses for years, Cleveland said. Owned by Rick Villa, the business was an easy partner for the project.

“He’s a Benton Harbor business. He’s a block off Main Street,” Cleveland said.

Huntington approached Cornerstone, wanting to help. This wasn’t unique, Cleveland said.

A number of the economic agency’s investors have asked how they could assist with aid during the water crisis.

Cleveland said they looked for a project that would help residents, the city and the business community, without disrupting any ongoing efforts.

The total amount of funds reserved for the project is between $15,000-$20,000, or enough for about 40-60 tests. However, investors have signaled to Cleveland, that if more funds are needed, they’ll be happy to step up.

“We want to be here to serve,” Cleveland said.

Developer Ken Ankli, who owns both the Sheffield Building and Quarternote Lofts in Benton Harbor, is one business owner who signed up for the service. Ankli said the emergency efforts painted all of Benton Harbor as having lead-contaminated water, a falsehood businesses have to set right.

“In order to proceed, we have to prove it,” Ankli said.

Numerous infrastructure replacements have taken place along Main Street and in the arts district, Ankli said, meaning their water lines are safe. The testing will then prove what these business owners already know, he said.

“(The governments are) taking a nuclear bomb approach instead of a rifle approach,” Ankli said.

Contact: jknot@TheHP.com, 932-0360, Twitter: @knotjuliana