Water Lead Response in Benton Harbor

In 2021, lead line replacement in the city of Benton Harbor began under a directive issued by Gov.  Gretchen Whitmer that required all lead service lines to be replaced in 18 months. As of December 2023, all lead service lines in the city have been replaced. This has resulted in changes to water filter distribution. 

The city of Benton Harbor is now transitioning to the state’s Get Ahead of Lead strategy. This program offers a variety of resources to help residents identify sources of lead in their home as well as provides resources for prevention. To learn more about the program and access resources, visit Michigan.gov/GetAheadofLead.   

On this page you will find: 

  • Information on water filter eligibility and pickup options.
  • Filter maintenance information and answers to frequently asked questions.  
  • For more information on the MDHHS Get Ahead of Lead program, visit Michigan.gov/GetAheadofLead

WATER FILTER DISTRIBUTION FOR CITY OF BENTON HARBOR

As of December 2023, households must meet the following criteria to receive a free water filter: 

  • Have a Medicaid-enrolled child younger than 19 living in the home OR a Medicaid-enrolled pregnant person living in the home.
  • Live in the city of Benton Harbor. 

Households that have already received a filter but do not meet the updated criteria will be allowed to keep their filter but will not be able to receive another filter or free cartridge replacements. 

For residents who meet the criteria, several options are available for getting a water filter or replacement cartridges: 

  1. Pick up filtration system or replacement filter cartridge at the Berrien County Health Department’s Benton Harbor office, 2149 E. Napier Ave., 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Thursday and 8 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Friday.
  2. Call the MDHHS Drinking Water Hotline at 1.844.934.1315. 

Need help installing your filter? Watch this video from MDHHS or call 1.800.815.5485.

DISTRIBUTION EVENTS

Eligible city of Benton Harbor residents are invited to pick up a filter, receive installation assistance and learn more about available resources at upcoming distribution events. Call 1.800.815.5485, option 2 for more information. 

Blood Lead Testing 

There have been recent changes to the definition of elevated blood lead level for children. For households enrolled in WIC with a child younger than 6, BCHD will offer lead testing starting Jan. 4, 2024 in the Benton Harbor office on Thursdays from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. and Niles office, 1205 N. Front St. on Wednesdays from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Appointments are required. To make an appointment, please call 1.800.815.5485. 

Individuals who live in the City of Benton Harbor will be able to pick up a filter during their appointment. 

Blood lead testing for children is also being offered through the InterCare Community Health Network. Appointments can be made by calling 1.855.869.6900.

FILTER MAINTENANCE 

To help make sure your filter is working properly, be sure to do the following:

  • Make sure your filter is installed properly. If you need assistance installing your filter, contact the Berrien County Health Department at 1.800.815.5485. 
  • Your filter cartridge should be replaced every 8 weeks OR when the filter indicator light turns red, whichever comes first.
  • Clean your faucet’s aerators and filter screens once per week. Unsure how? Check out this resource from MDHHS: A Guide to Cleaning Your Aerators.
  • Only run cold water through your filter – warm and hot water can damage the filter. 

BACKGROUND INFORMATION 

Public water supplies are tested regularly for lead and copper in drinking water. In 2021, the regularly scheduled testing discovered lead in the city of Benton Harbor’s water and found at least 10% of the samples tested had lead levels that exceeded the "action level" of 15 parts per billion (ppb). 

When at least 10% of the samples tested exceed the action level for lead in drinking water (15ppb), public health officials recommend precautionary actions to protect residents – especially those most at risk of harm to their health, including children and fetuses. Lead exposure can pose a serious health risk for children because their bodies and nervous systems are still developing. 

FOR QUESTIONS ABOUT WATER OR WATER TESTING

City of Benton Harbor
City of Benton Harbor website
Email: [email protected]
 Phone: 269.927.8400, ext.1143

LEAD FILTER FAQS

1. WHO NEEDS A WATER FILTER? 

Residents do not have to use a filter. The city of Benton Harbor has met or exceeded lead standards under the federal Safe Drinking Water Act and Michigan’s strictest-in-the-nation Lead & Copper Rule for two consecutive years. However, plumbing and water faucets in older homes – those built before YEAR – may contain sources of lead. For this reason, MDHHS recommends residents take the necessary steps to identify if they have lead or galvanized plumbing or old faucets and fittings that were sold before 2014. If this type of plumbing or fixtures are in the home, residents can choose to use a lead-reducing filter to provide an added level of protection. 

Residents who live in older homes where faucets and pipes may contain sources of lead may want to use filtered water for drinking, cooking, making baby formula, rinsing foods, brushing teeth and for pets. Learn how to identify lead or galvanized plumbing and old faucets and fixtures at Find resources for how to identify lead or galvanized plumbing and old faucets and fixtures at Michigan.gov/GetAheadofLead

2. DO FILTERS WORK?

Yes, certified filters are proven to reduce lead in drinking water. A recent study of 200 Benton Harbor homes by the Environmental Protection Agency found that when properly installed and maintained, filters effectively reduce lead in drinking water.

3. HOW DO FILTERS WORK? 

Filters serve as a physical barrier that can block and trap particles like lead and other debris from passing through. Certified water filters are effective at removing both soluble and particulate lead. Soluble lead is lead that is dissolved in water. Particulate lead is small pieces of lead from lead-containing material.

5. HOW CAN I GET A FILTER?

Households in the city of Benton Harbor who have a Medicaid-enrolled child younger than 19 or Medicaid-enrolled pregnant person are eligible for free certified water filters through the Berrien County Health Department.

Residents can receive filters by mail or in person at BCHD. Call 1.800.815.5485, option 2 to have your filter delivered by mail or pick up in person at the Berrien County Health Department, 2149 E. Napier Ave., 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Thursday and 8 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Friday. No appointment is needed. 

You can also buy your own filter through an outside source. Make sure the packaging says the filter is certified to NSF/ANSI Standard 53 for lead reduction and certified for NSF/ANSI Standard 42 for particulate reduction (Class I). 

6. WHAT KIND OF FILTER DO I NEED?

Filter should be certified to NSF/ANSI Standard 53 for lead reduction and certified for NSF/ANSI Standard 42 for particulate reduction (Class I). Faucet mount filters typically work best for faucets with heads that are fixed in place. Pitcher filters work best for faucets with detachable heads. 

The Environmental Protection Agency offers this tool to help residents determine if a filter meets the necessary standards. 

7. HOW DO I INSTALL A FILTER?

To install a faucet mount filter, walk through the steps outlined on the MDHHS website. For video instructions, visit bit.ly/PURFaucetFilter.

For a pitcher filter, walk through the steps outlined on the MDHHS website.

Eligible city of Benton Harbor residents can receive free installation assistance. Call 1.844.875.9211 and an MDHHS representative will come to your home within one business day. Residents will be asked when ordering their filter if they would like installation assistance. 

Proper installation and maintenance are essential for filters to be effective.

8. WHAT KIND OF MAINTENANCE DO FILTERS NEED?

Each type of filter will have different maintenance needs. Some common maintenance tasks include cartridge changing and aerator cleaning.

Each filter has a cartridge that serves as the physical barrier that blocks and traps particles. Filter cartridges should be changed every two months or when the filter indicator light turns red, whichever happens first. Each time you turn on your faucet mount filter or pour from your pitcher filter, a light will flash on the filter gauge six times to let you know:

  • Green: Your filter cartridge is working.
  • Yellow: Your filter cartridge is working but needs to be replaced soon.
  • Red: The filter cartridge needs to be replaced now. 

If you have a faucet mount filter, this video shows how you can replace the cartridge.

Aerators – the mesh screens on your sink faucet – can trap pieces of particulate lead. Clean your drinking water faucet aerator at least once a week. Learn how to clean an aerator here

9. HOW CAN I GET REPLACEMENT CARTRIDGES? 

Replacement cartridges are available for free through the Berrien County Health Department for eligible city residents who receive their water from the City of Benton Harbor. Residents can receive filters by mail or in person. Call 1.800.815.5485, option 2 to have your filter delivered by mail or pick up in person at the Berrien County Health Department, 2149 E. Napier Ave., 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Thursday and 8 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Friday. No appointment is needed.

10. HOW OFTEN DO CARTRIDGES NEED TO BE REPLACED?

Filter cartridges should be changed every two months or when the filter indicator light turns red, whichever happens first.

11. HOW MUCH DO FILTERS COST?

Filters are available to eligible city of Benton Harbor residents at no cost through BCHD. Similar filters purchased from a retailer typically cost $25 to $35.