BENTON HARBOR — More than 90 percent of Benton Harbor’s water service lines have been replaced with copper pipes or certified to be free of lead.
The Benton Harbor Lead Service Line Replacement Dashboard shows 90.6 percent are lead-free, with 193 water lines verified to be non-lead in the past 30 days.
Of the city’s 4,504 water service lines, only 423 are left to be checked.
Benton Harbor Mayor Marcus Muhammad said the city had started to replace the lead service lines three years ago, but the lack of money slowed them down. At the time, it was estimated to take at least 20 years to replace all of the lead water service lines.
Muhammad said the process sped up after Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed an executive directive last fall, ordering all state departments to work with the city to get the lead service lines replaced within 18 months.
Along with support from state officials came millions of dollars – including $10 million in the state’s 2022 budget approved a year ago and $45 million in the state’s supplemental budget plan approved in March – which has been called the Building Michigan Together Plan. That plan is investing nearly $5 billion in the state’s infrastructure to improve transportation, water and high-speed internet infrastructure.
“Once the money was there, it was a game-changer,” Muhammad said. “ ... Through it all, our focus was on the ultimate goal. I’m happy to say that we’re right there. We’re not completed yet, but we’re in a good place.”
State officials are continuing to make sure everyone in the state has access to clean drinking water. On Tuesday, the state Senate passed the Clean Drinking Water Access Act, which is aimed at making sure school children have lead-free water at their drinking fountains while at school.
If approved by the state House, the act will require filtered bottle-filling stations and water faucets to be installed at schools, children’s camps and child care centers.