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State of Michigan works with local partners to ensure Benton Harbor residents have safe water following main break

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE October 21, 2021

Contact: Bob Wheaton, 517-241-2112

LANSING, Mich. - State of Michigan and local officials have made additional free bottled water available to Benton Harbor residents in response to a water main break in the city Tuesday afternoon.

The water main break occurred amid the state's accelerated, across-the-board effort to reduce the risk of exposure to lead in Benton Harbor drinking water while the city replaces all lead service lines.

"We understand that Benton Harbor residents are going through very stressful times - and I want them to know that the state is fully committed to making sure that families have access to clean water," said Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Director Elizabeth Hertel. "The State of Michigan will be there for Benton Harbor residents while the expedited 18-month-process of replacing lead sewer service lines is completed."

The water main break caused residents across the city to lose water pressure.

The State of Michigan worked with the Berrien County Health Department and many local community partners to provide additional bottled water earlier this morning. Residents can pick up free water later today at Brotherhood of All Nations,1286 Monroe St., from 4-6 p.m.          

Residents who could not visit a distribution site and need emergency water delivery can call 211 or the Berrien County Health Department hotline at 1-800-815-5485.

Efforts to support homebound residents and those without transportation are also underway. To arrange water delivery to homebound or residents without transportation in the city of Benton Harbor, residents can contact 211, which is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

MDHHS and the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) are working with the county health department, the City of Benton Harbor and local community organizations on the response to the water main break - as well as the long-term effort to eliminate lead action level exceedances, educate communities on the effects of lead in drinking water, and remove lead service lines.

"I've been laser-focused on getting the water restored to Benton Harbor residents," said Mayor Marcus Muhammad. "It was an 89-year-old water main that cracked. I have been working around the clock with partners at all levels and appreciate the swift action to get this resolved as soon as possible for our residents."

EGLE offers the following guidance for Benton Harbor residents to ensure health and safety in the wake of the water main break.

  • Residents should continue to use bottled water for cooking, drinking, making ice, brushing teeth, washing dishes, rinsing foods, and mixing powdered infant form The city will continue to be under a bottled water advisory for lead contamination even after water services is restored.
  • After the water pressure is restored, residents should flush the water taps for five minutes before using the water for washing hands, showering or bathing.
  • For faucets with removable aerators - small screens that trap sediments -remove them and clean any debris that has accumulated.
  • The water may have discoloration after service is restored. This is due to sediment disruption within the water lines caused by the disruption in pressure. While is not necessarily an indication of contamination, residents should run water until it is clear before using for showering, bathing and other non-consuming activities.
  • Flush toilets at least twice to move fresh water through the plumbing.
  • For faucets and showers: Run cold water taps at full flow for several minutes first, followed by hot water taps. If possible, remove faucet aerators before flushing.
  • Run an empty load in dishwashers and washing machines to clear the water lines.

As of Wednesday, more than 71,000 cases of free bottled water had been distributed to Benton Harbor residents since Sept. 30. Free bottled water is being provided by the state as residents are being encouraged to use bottled water for cooking, drinking, brushing teeth, rinsing foods and mixing powdered infant formula.

Additional dates and locations for bottled water pick up will be added to make sure community needs are met. Information is posted on Michigan.gov/MiLeadSafe.

For questions about lead, MDHHS can be reached at 866-691-5323 Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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