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Whitmer signs directive to deliver safe drinking water to Benton Harbor

The directive implements an all-hands-on-deck approach to move forward and ensure every resident has safe drinking water.
Thursday, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed an executive directive aimed at ensuring access to safe...
Thursday, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed an executive directive aimed at ensuring access to safe drinking water for Benton Harbor.((Source: Pablo))
Published: Oct. 14, 2021 at 10:46 AM EDT
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - Thursday, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed an executive directive aimed at ensuring access to safe drinking water for Benton Harbor.

The directive implements an all-hands-on-deck approach to move forward and ensure every resident has safe drinking water.

“Every Michigander deserves safe drinking water, and every community deserves lead-free pipes,” said Gov. Whitmer. “I’m proud to sign an Executive Directive today that will pursue a whole-of-government approach to protect access to safe drinking water right now and work tirelessly to replace every lead service line in Benton Harbor as soon as possible. I cannot imagine the stress that moms and dads in Benton Harbor are under as they emerge from a pandemic, work hard to put food on the table, pay the bills, and face a threat to the health of their children. That’s why we are also expediting the timeline to replace lead service lines in an effort to ensure that 100% of the pipes are lead-free in the next 18 months.”

Executive Directive (ED) Actions

The executive directive builds on ongoing efforts underway at various departments and by critical stakeholder groups and community leaders, ensuring state government and its partners are all rowing in the same direction and laser-focused on shared goals.

Here are some of the actions the directive takes:

  • Residents of Benton Harbor must continue to have access to free bottled water until further notice.
  • Residents must be offered free or low-cost lead-related services including but not limited to drinking water testing and health services.
  • The State of Michigan will collaborate closely with federal partners, county officials, city officials, and community leaders to communicate up-to-date information and leverage every available resource to accelerate lead service line replacement.
Lead Service Lines (LSLs)

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

Recently, the Whitmer-Gilchrist Administration delivered just under $20 million to Benton Harbor to speed up their LSL replacement timeline. Today, the governor announced the state is committed to expediting lead service line replacements using additional federal, state, and local resources, with the goal of replacing 100% of lead service lines in Benton Harbor in 18 months.

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

Lead

There is no safe level of lead. Lead exposure harms brain development in children and it causes both short and long-term health problems for adults. The leading causes of lead exposure are drinking water and paint. About 34 million homes have lead-based paint and around 9.2 million have lead pipes. Michigan’s top priority is simple: safe drinking water for everyone.

A notification was submitted to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, to expand use of Medicaid Child Health Insurance Program Health Services Initiative funds for lead prevention services for Benton Harbor households. Once the notification process is complete, households with children under 19 years of age enrolled in a Medicaid Health Plan, or a pregnant person enrolled in a Medicaid Health Plan, would be eligible for a free environmental investigation into lead hazards within the home, and to provide the necessary lead abatement work to ensure the home is lead-safe.

“We will not rest until the job is done and every parent feels confident to give their kid a glass of water knowing that it is safe,” said Gov. Whitmer.

Copyright 2021 WILX. All rights reserved.

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