Water Lead Response in Benton Harbor
In 2021, lead line replacement in Benton Harbor began under a directive issued by Governor Gretchen Whitmer, which required all lead service lines to be replaced in 18 months.
Throughout the replacement period, the Berrien County Health Department has given out free, certified water filters that are proven to reduce water lead levels to residents and MDHHS has provided free bottled water.
On this page you will find:
- Information on water filter distribution and pick up
- Filter maintenance information
- Next steps once your service line has been replaced and MDHHS's Drinking Water Road Map
- For more information on MDHHS's Benton Harbor Home Lead Safe Program, please visit our program webpage or michigan.gov/mileadsafe.
WATER FILTER DISTRIBUTION FOR CITY OF BENTON HARBOR
Residents have several options available to get a water filter or replacement cartridges:
- Pick up filtration system or replacement filter cartridge at the Berrien County Health Department office.
Berrien County Health Department
2149 E. Napier Ave.
Monday-Friday from 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m.
- Request a filter online at https://mdhssenvirohealth.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_bOXh7Ob1wShMvdQ?Q_CHL=qr.
- If you are homebound or unable to get to a distribution location, we can mail a replacement filter cartridge to your home. Call 1.800.815.5485 to request a replacement filter cartridge be mailed to you.
- Visit the Corewell Health Lakeland Center for Better Health in Benton Harbor.
The Center is located at 100 W. Main Street and is open Monday through Saturday.
- Tuesday 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
- Wednesday 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
- Thursday 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
- Friday 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
Visit shlcenterforbetterhealth.org or call 269.408.2258 to reach the Center for Better Health.
Need help installing your filter? Watch this video from MDHHS or call 1.800.815.5485.
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. If you run out of cartridges, contact the Health Department for more.
- 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.
My Service line has been replaced – now what?
Once your service line has been replaced, you still need to continue using filtered water (or bottled water) for the following activities:
- Brushing teeth
- Rinsing foods
- Mixing powdered infant formula
Community members will be notified by MDHHS when it is safe to begin using tap water for all activities. You can find the latest updates from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and find information on lead testing from Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy Website.
For lead lines to be replaced, residents must fill out the right of entry and lead service line replacement agreement. Follow this link or scan the code below to access the form: https://dtmb.state.mi.us/BentonHarbor.
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services has also published the below Drinking Water Road Map.
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 that at least 10% of the samples tested had lead levels that exceeded the "action level" of 15 parts per billion (ppb). More information about water testing in the City of Benton Harbor can be found on the City of Benton Harbor Website.
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. The use of water filters is recommended in any residence served by the City of Benton Harbor water system. Free filters are being provided to any City of Benton Harbor resident who would like one.
It is recommended to use only cold-filtered (or bottled) water for drinking, rinsing food, cooking, mixing powdered infant formula and brushing teeth.
If you decide to buy a water filter, make sure it is certified to NSF/ANSI Standard 53 for lead reduction and NSF/ANSI Standard 42 for particulate reduction. It is important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for installing and maintaining the filter.
FOR QUESTIONS ABOUT THE WATER OR WATER TESTING
City 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.
LEAD FILTER FAQS
1. WHO NEEDS A FILTER?
It is recommended households that receive their water from the city of Benton Harbor use a filter or bottled water for drinking, cooking, making baby formula, rinsing foods, brushing teeth and for pets. In 2018, the city of Benton Harbor’s drinking water exceeded the federal action level for lead due to contamination from lead service lines and indoor plumbing fixtures. Work is currently being done to update these sources. Even if your lead service line has been replaced, it’s important to continue using filtered water until your home can be tested for lead.
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.
4. WHAT DO I NEED TO USE FILTERED WATER FOR?
Filtered water should be used for drinking, cooking, making baby formula, rinsing foods, brushing teeth and for pets.
5. WHY WEREN’T FILTERS BEING OFFERED BEFORE?
BCHD launched the free filter program in 2019 when concerns about the city’s water lead levels were first raised. The program has been active ever since.
6. HOW CAN I GET A FILTER?
Certified water filters are available to residents of the city of Benton Harbor at no cost through the Berrien County Health Department.
Residents can receive filters by mail or in person pick up. 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 at 2149 E. Napier Ave. from 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Friday or the Center for Better Health at 100 W. Main St. from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesday through Friday. Both locations are in Benton Harbor, and neither requires appointments. To request a filter to be mailed to you, visit https://mdhssenvirohealth.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_bOXh7Ob1wShMvdQ?Q_CHL=qr.
You can also purchase your own filter through an outside source. If you decide to purchase your own filter, be 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).
7. WHAT KIND OF FILTER DO I NEED?
There are two kinds of filters available: a PUR® faucet mount filter or a PUR® pitcher filter. Faucet mount filters typically work best for faucets with heads that are fixed in place. Pitcher filters work best for faucets with detachable heads. Staff at BCHD and the Center for Better Health will work with you to help find the correct filter for your home.
8. HOW DO I INSTALL A FILTER?
To install a faucet mount filter, walk through the steps outlined in the How to Use Your PUR Faucet Filter Certified to Reduce Lead in Drinking Water Fact Sheet. For video instructions visit: bit.ly/PURFaucetFilter.
For a pitcher filter, walk through the steps outlined in the How to Use Your PUR Pitcher Filter Certified to Reduce Lead in Drinking Water Fact Sheet.
City of Benton Harbor residents can receive free installation assistance. Call 844.875.9211 and a representative of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services 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.
9. WHAT KIND OF MAINTENANCE DO FILTERS NEED?
Each type of filter will have different maintenance needs. These will be included when you receive your filter, whether from BCHD or another source. 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 you will need to change it soon.
- Red: The filter cartridge needs to be changed now.
If you have a faucet mount filter, this video can help show you how to 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.
10. HOW CAN I GET REPLACEMENT CARTRIDGES?
Replacement cartridges are available for free through BCHD for city residents who receive their water from the city of Benton Harbor. Residents can receive filters by mail or in person pick up. 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 or the Center for Better Health. Cartridges can also be purchased from retailers.
11. 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.
12. HOW MUCH DO FILTERS COST?
Filters are available to city of Benton Harbor residents at no cost through BCHD. Similar filters purchased from a retailer typically cost $25-35.
13. CAN’T I JUST USE BOTTLED WATER?
Bottled water can also be used and is available at no cost through MDHHS. Information about distribution locations and times can be found at Michigan.gov/MiLeadSafe. Filters are available as a convenient, additional option for residents to ensure access to safe drinking water.