Whitmer urges Benton Harbor residents to sign off on pipe work

Michigan

BENTON HARBOR, Mich. (WOOD) — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is encouraging residents to do their part in signing off on pipe replacement work taking place on private property amid Benton Harbor’s water crisis.

With one down and thousands more to go, the governor joined local leaders Tuesday in brainstorming ways to get more residents on board with the lead pipe replacement process.

“One of the things though that we want to make sure also happens is that homeowners, people that live in these residences, sign off so that we can move forward with the replacement on the private side of the sidewalk so we can replace the lines that are bringing water directly into the home,” Whitmer said. “We’re working really hard to restore clean water into every home here in Benton Harbor but the fact of the matter is the homeowners need to sign off on this as well.”

As the state gets to work on replacing the pipes, the Environmental Protection Agency is also enlisting the help of residents.

The agency is looking for homeowners to take part in a series of water studies, one of which will examine whether water filters are effective in reducing lead levels.

So far 25 residents have signed up, but hundreds more are needed.

In the meantime, local volunteers continue to pass out bottled water, including Rev. Edward Pinkney, the president of the Benton Harbor Community Water Council and the person who alerted the EPA to the city’s elevated lead levels in September.

Pinkney says there’s a lot of distrust between the community and those trying to fix the problem.

“The city of Benton Harbor for three years had high lead levels, higher than Flint, higher than anyone else. … Nobody really cared,” Pinkney said. “It was just a Black city and who cares really about a Black city.”

He said in order to get over the hurdles of mistrust and mixed-messaging, there needs to be an improvement in language.

“You’ve got to know how to give the right language to the community so they can trust you. More transparency,” Pinkney said. “Just admit that you made a mistake.”

Any residents interested in partaking in the EPA’s water study can sign up online.

For more information the the EPA’s water study and to sign up, go to EPA.gov.

Because Benton Harbor residents have been told not to drink their water, bottled water distribution continues with several locations handing out cases of water this week:

Wednesday, Nov. 10

  • Southwest Community Action Agency, 331 Miller Street, 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., (Water loaded into vehicles by volunteers)

Thursday, Nov. 11

  • Ebenezer Baptist Church, 214 E. Britain Avenue, 10 a.m. tp 12 p.m.
  • Brotherhood of All Nations, 1286 Monroe Street, 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Friday, Nov. 12

  • Southwest Community Action Agency, 331 Miller Street, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. (Self-service)

Saturday, Nov. 13

  • Boys & Girls Club of Benton Harbor, 600 Nate Wells Sr. Drive, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.,
  • Harbor of Hope Seventh-Day Adventist Church, 769 Pipestone Street, 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.   

Sunday, November 14

  • Abundant Life Church of God, 693 Columbus Avenue, 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.
  • Brotherhood of All Nations, 1286 Monroe Street, 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.

If you can’t get to a pickup location, call 211 to arrange delivery.

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