Jun 16, 2023
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has lifted its order directing the City of Benton Harbor to correct issues at its water plant.
EPA Region 5 Administrator Debra Shore announced the decision in a statement released Monday, saying that the City's successful completion of requirements to improve drinking water safety and protect residents from exposure to lead justified lifting the order under the federal Safe Drinking Water Act.
“All people deserve access to safe and reliable drinking water, and the community of Benton Harbor is no different. We are pleased that the city has taken action as directed by EPA to protect public health and ensure this crucial access,” Shore said. “Today’s action recognizes the important progress in the community to reduce exposure to lead and better protect the city’s drinking water system from harmful pollution and hazards.”
The EPA issued its order in November 2021, based on violations and deficiencies found during a joint federal-state inspection of the City's water system.
Benton Harbor has demonstrated to EPA that all terms of the order have been satisfactorily completed. In addition, 100% of the lead service lines in the city have been replaced, and the water system has not experienced a lead action level exceedance in any of its three most recent lead and copper rule compliance monitoring periods.
The EPA noted that the order doesn't relieved Benton Harbor of its ongoing obligation to comply with the Safe Drinking Water Act. As the primary agency, the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy will continue to work with the City to ensure compliance with ongoing requirements, such as overseeing implementation of a plan for ensuring necessary technical, managerial, and financial capacity to operate and maintain the water system.
EPA will continue to track compliance of public water systems in Michigan, including Benton Harbor, through routine coordination with the state. EPA’s involvement has been instrumental to driving actions to ensure that the people of Benton Harbor are protected from exposure to lead and have access to safe and reliable drinking water. This includes:
• Awarding $5.6 million to Benton Harbor under a Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act grant to replace lead service lines and conduct a corrosion control study.
• Coordinating with the city to award $800,000 to Benton Harbor through community grants for improvements to its public water system.
• Working with Michigan, the city of Benton Harbor and the drinking water system on medium- and long-term solutions, which are essential to protect the health and well-being of residents.
• Supporting state efforts to provide bottled water and address the immediate and pressing needs of the community.
• Conducting three inspections, to ensure compliance with the Safe Drinking Water Act.
• Provided the city a compliance advisor to provide direct, one-on-one technical assistance to the system operator. EPA makes compliance advisors available to small under-resourced drinking water systems nationwide that may lack sufficient expertise.
EPA also conducted a large-scale filter study in Benton Harbor. After analyzing water samples from more than 200 homes, results show that, when used properly, filters are effective at reducing lead in drinking water.
For more information, including the full results of the filter study, visit EPA’s website, at https://www.epa.gov/mi/benton-harbor-drinking-water.