Benton Harbor Drinking Water
EPA is committed to ensuring that everyone has access to clean drinking water and continues to support the Benton Harbor public water system and Michigan’s state agencies to ensure access to safe drinking water for the Benton Harbor community.
On this page:
- Alternatives Analysis
- Water Study Final Results
- Ongoing Chlorine Monitoring
- Public Water System Inspection Report
- Filter Study Results
October 24, 2022 Update: In November 2021, EPA ordered Benton Harbor to assess options for the long-term operation and continued maintenance of its public water system and make them available to the public for comment. The city has published that report, called an Alternatives Analysis, and is accepting public comments until Dec. 1, 2022. You can view the report and how to submit comments on the city’s website. Copies are also available at several locations including the Benton Harbor Public Library, City Hall, the Berrien County Health Department, and the Boys & Girls Club Joel E. Smilow Teen Center. See the website for a full list of locations. Within seven days of the close of the comment period, the city will consolidate all comments, submit them to EPA, post them on its website, and make them physically available at the Benton Harbor Public Library.
Water Study Final Results
To better understand Benton Harbor drinking water, EPA and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) conducted three studies:
- A filter study to determine if certified filters are working as expected to reduce lead.
- A sequential study to determine if lead is present in a home’s water and if it is coming from the home’s plumbing or water service line.
- A particle study to determine how much lead is present in small particles in drinking water.
JUNE 2, 2022 Update: Laboratory analysis of water samples collected by EPA personnel is now complete. The data from these sampling events have been through both the laboratory quality assurance process and an internal EPA review for correctness. Residents whose water was sampled as part of this EPA effort will receive a letter in the mail with their full and final laboratory results. The letter will include detailed results for lead, as well as many other water quality parameters. The letter will also include additional state efforts and resources available to residents of Benton Harbor.
The following fact sheet describes best practices for using certified lead-reducing filters and highlights the results of EPA’s Filter Study that was conducted in Benton Harbor in November and December 2021.
Ongoing Chlorine Monitoring
EPA’s review of available water sampling data through April 2022 has determined that chlorine residuals measured in the distribution system are consistent with Safe Drinking Water Act regulatory requirements. These chlorination requirements of the Safe Drinking Water Act are designed to address risks from microbial pathogens, such as bacteria and viruses.
Public Water System Inspection Report
On March 29, EPA issued a report that documents the findings of a February 14, 2022 inspection of Benton Harbor’s public water system. The purpose of the inspection was to make observations about the site conditions, operation, and monitoring of the system to evaluate compliance with the Safe Drinking Water Act, regulatory requirements, and specifically, the November 2, 2021 Unilateral Administrative Order.
The inspection report identifies compliance issues that the city is committed to addressing. EPA continues to work in close partnership with the State of Michigan to ensure consistency between agencies and to verify that compliance deficiencies are appropriately addressed by the city. In addition, there are several important areas for further improvement of the operation and maintenance at the system, including necessary improvements to the technical, managerial, and financial capacity, that are critical for the long-term operation of the system as outlined in the EPA and Michigan Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) enforcement orders. The recent inspection did not identify unaddressed violations of EPA’s health-based national primary drinking water requirements. Read the report:
Benton Harbor Public Water System Inspection Report (pdf)
Filter Study Results
On March 3, EPA released the results of EPA’s Filter Study conducted in Benton Harbor. After analyzing water samples from about 200 homes, results show that when used properly, filters are effective at reducing lead in drinking water.
During November and December 2021, EPA scientists tested unfiltered and filtered water at about 200 locations in Benton Harbor. EPA determined that when installed, maintained, and used properly, filters are effective at reducing lead in drinking water. However, the Agency found residents need better information to install and operate filters properly. EPA plans to support the State of Michigan and local governments to disseminate information about the safe and effective use of filters.
EPA is working with Michigan’s state agencies, Berrien County, and the City of Benton Harbor on long-term solutions. Free bottled water continues to be provided by MDHHS for City of Benton Harbor residents for cooking, drinking, brushing teeth, rinsing foods, and mixing powdered infant formula. The Berrien County Health Department has filters available free of charge. Tap water can be used for showering or bathing (avoid swallowing water), washing hands, washing dishes, laundry, and cleaning. Michigan has committed to replacing all lead service lines in Benton Harbor within the next 16 months.
On February 16, EPA responded to the September 9, 2021, Petition for Emergency Action under the Safe Drinking Water Act (pdf) requesting that EPA investigate and address elevated lead levels in Benton Harbor, Michigan’s drinking water.
- EPA Letter to EGLE Re: Feedback on the Cornwell Engineering Benton Harbor Corrosion Test Plan (pdf)
- Petition for Emergency Action under the Safe Drinking Water Act (pdf)
- EPA Letters to Liesl Eichler Clark, Director, Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy, and Elizabeth Hertel, Director, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (pdf)
- Response to EPA from EGLE and DHHS with Attachments (pdf)
- Drinking Water Sampling Protocols for Benton Harbor Water Study (pdf)
- Transmittal letter from EPA (pdf)
- Region 5 Enforcement and Compliance Assurance Division SDWA Drinking Water Inspection Report (pdf)
- Unilateral Order, Benton Harbor (pdf)
- UAO Transmittal Letter (pdf)
- Referral of Benton Harbor Drinking Water Compliance Issues for Enforcement (pdf)
- Safe Drinking Water Inspection Report, City of Benton Harbor, Michigan (pdf)
- Inspection Report Transmittal Letter (pdf)