Whitmer visits first lead service line replacement in Benton Harbor

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In a photo provided by the Michigan Office of the Governor, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (Michigan Office of the Governor via AP)

LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) — Today, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer paid a visit to Benton Harbor to oversee the first replacement of lead service lines (LSLs).

Whitmer has committed to replacing all of the city’s LSLs in 18 months.

Today, I visited a construction site in Benton Harbor where we are moving dirt to replace 100% of lead service lines in the city. I am proud of the progress we are making, and I look forward to much more. I am confident that we can meet our goal to replace 100% of lead service lines in Benton Harbor within 18 months and utilize the $1.3 billion headed our way from the federal bipartisan infrastructure bill specifically for water to protect safe drinking water in every community. Later, I attended a weekly community meeting and heard directly from people on the ground doing the work to help residents. We will not rest until every parent feels confident to give their kid a glass of water knowing that it is safe.” 

Governor Gretchen Whitmer

The estimated cost to replace all LSLs in Benton Harbor is $30 million. Approximately $18.6 million of the $30 million has been accounted for in funding, but an additional $11.4 million is required to replace all LSLs within the next 18 months.

Today, Governor Whitmer called on the legislature to secure the remaining funding by utilizing the billions in federal funding available to Michigan under the American Rescue Plan. 

Every Michigander deserves access to water they can trust to drink and that they can trust to give to their family. Replacing the lead service lines in Benton Harbor is a major step in ensuring Benton Harbor residents have safe and clean drinking water. Throughout that process, the department and our numerous state, local and community partners are committed to providing every resource we have available to the families of Benton Harbor.” 

MDHHS Director Elizabeth Hertel

Under Michigan’s Lead and Copper Rule, every community is required to replace 5% of its LSLs every year, meaning 100% replacement in 20 years.

Any community experiencing an action level exceedance, or ALE, is required to replace their LSLs at a rate of 7% per year, meaning 100% completion in just under 15 years. 

Governor Whitmer has put forward a plan to speed up the timeline by investing an additional $200 million to ensure faster replacement of LSLs in communities across the state. 

With additional federal funding expected under the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act making its way through Congress, Michigan will receive billions more to fix its infrastructure, including lead pipes.

The governor launched the Michigan Clean Water plan to invest $700 million to build water infrastructure.

The plan will replace lead service lines statewide.

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