DHHS offers advice to Benton Harbor residents on eliminating lead in homes ⋆

As the state continues its efforts to replace lead service lines and remove sources of lead from homes in Benton Harbor, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has created a road map officials said Benton Harbor families should take after their lead service lines are replaced. 

“With 99.8% of lead service lines replaced in the city of Benton Harbor, the state is continuing its all hands-on-deck response to make resources available to residents in the city of Benton Harbor,” the DHHS wrote in a news release issued Monday. “This includes free home lead inspection and abatement services to help families ensure there are not additional sources of lead in their homes from paint or plumbing.”

Efforts to remove lead from Benton Harbor homes come after DHHS in 2021 told the city’s approximately 10,000 residents not to drink their tap water after high levels of lead were found. Since then, the state has been working to address lead contamination by replacing the city’s aging lead service lines. Lead is a toxic chemical that can cause brain and kidney damage, behavioral problems and even death.

According to the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy’s Benton Harbor project dashboard, 99.8% of the water service lines have been replaced or verified as lead-free. A total of 4,497 lead service lines have been replaced.

As part of its “road map,” DHHS advises families to use lead-reducing filters or bottled water until the department clears their home’s plumbing for use. It then advises scheduling a free home lead inspection and abatement services and having the home’s plumbing fixed, removed or replaced for free if any sources of lead are found in the home’s plumbing. 

Benton Harbor residents should then have their water tested by the DHHS to confirm that all sources of lead were fixed, removed or replaced. Finally, residents should clean the screens at the end of their faucets — known as aerators — and should keep water moving in their home. This can include everyday activities such as running water until it is cold, taking a shower, doing laundry and running a dishwasher. 

The department said it’s important for Benton Harbor families to continue using filters or bottled water for drinking, brushing their teeth, cooking, rinsing food and mixing baby formula until they have their free home lead inspection. 

Home lead inspections are also available to homeowners, renters and landlords at no cost. Free lead abatement services are also available free of cost for homeowners, while there is a shared cost for owners of rental properties. 

Lead inspections can include environmental investigations to identify lead in paint, dust, soil and drinking water hazards. Sampling to identify lead in drinking water and testing of non-household components with the potential to contain lead such as toys, dishes or furniture will also be offered.

Lead abatement services can include full service for lead in paint, dust, soil and drinking water hazards. Bathroom and kitchen faucets from before 2014 that are used for drinkable water will be replaced regardless of water sampling results.

Lead services applications are available online at Michigan.gov/MILeadSafe. The website also features additional information, including a guide for cleaning an aerator. Residents can call DHHS at 866-691-5323 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, for information about applications or for questions about lead.

Benton Harbor residents will continue to be provided with bottled water and filters. The Berrien County Health Department is providing free filters, which can be picked up from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, at 2149 E. Napier Ave. Residents can also call 844-934-1315 or fill out an online form to have filters delivered to their homes. 

Water pickup will be available from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on July 13 through July 14, and on July 17 at Southwest Community Action Agency on 331 Miller St. Delivery of bottled water will continue for homebound residents and residents without transportation. Residents in need of water deliveries can contact the City of Benton Harbor any time by calling 211. Residents should contact 844-875-9211 if they cannot call 211.

authored by Kyle Davidson
First published at https%3A%2F%2Fmichiganadvance.com%2F2023%2F07%2F12%2Fdhhs-offers-advice-to-benton-harbor-residents-on-eliminating-lead-in-homes%2F

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