BENTON HARBOR, Mich. (WOOD) — The city of Benton Harbor has made the replacement of lead water service lines mandatory.
The City Commission voted Monday to approve an ordinance mandating property owners replace their lead lines within 180 days if they chose to not give the city access to replace the lines for them.
The city attorney said the ordinance was based on similar ones in Wisconsin and Newark, New Jersey.
“This basically states the replacement of lead service lines in the community is mandatory, that the city will be doing that at no cost — or if a property owner wishes to do it on their own and within a certain period of time as provided in this ordinance, they may do so if they don’t want someone from the city or city contractors doing the job,” City Attorney Richard Racht explained to commissioners.
Mayor Marcus Muhammad the ordinance will help rid the city of lead-tainted water that has left many residents drinking bottled water only.
“This resolution … will empower the city to make it mandatory and put some things in place where we do all we can. Because No. 1, there’s a health hazard; we all have learned that and we know that. If it’s a health hazard to the city, it’s no different than a crumbling porch or a roof falling in. There’s an ordinance now put in place to correct it. And it puts accountability on the city as well as the landowner or homeowner,” Muhammad told the commission just before the vote.
If residents don’t replace lines within 180 days, they face fines up to $500, up to 90 days in jail and up to 250 community service.
“The spirit of the resolution, the law, is to not punishment or punitive but it’s restorative to make sure the city exhausts all options, all resources to replace to every lead service line,” Muhammad said.
So far, 440 of the almost 4,400 lead service lines have been replaced. In October, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced a goal to replace all the lines by April 2023.