Benton Harbor will get bottled water indefinitely, pipes replaced in 18 months

NOW: Benton Harbor will get bottled water indefinitely, pipes replaced in 18 months

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BENTON HARBOR, Mich. -- Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said there will be no shortage of bottled water in Benton Harbor in a new order Thursday.

It requires multiple state agencies to provide free bottled water to residents until further notice and replace all the old lead pipes contaminating water in certain homes in just 18 months, instead of five years as previously planned.

Still, some residents have concerns as to why it took so long for the city to get these resources.

“This has been going on for 20 years and where is the money going?,” said Dianna Williams, a nearly 30-year Benton Harbor resident.

Williams said she’s always known something wasn’t right with her water.

“My home was built in 1937, I have pipes in the basement that are in the ceiling and one of them just split, it’s a big brass pipe.”

Williams has duct taped the pipe to prevent further leaking and said she has new plastic pipes that feed into her kitchen, but she hasn’t had the lead levels tested to know if the water really now is clean.

Another barrier for Williams is that she’s homebound, she said she’s called the number provided for bottled water delivery but was told she’s on a waitlist.

She’s concerned some people at the distribution events aren’t even residents.

“Some people I know stay in Benton Township, they don’t check IDs, why don’t you check their IDs? I can say I live in Benton Harbor but I live in Benton Township or Fairplain,” said Williams.

The past year, Benton Harbor had already received $17 million in funding from federal agencies like the EPA, then $20 million last month from Michigan EGLE.

While Williams is grateful the state is stepping in now to finally fix all the pipes, she’d like to know where exactly all the previous funding the city’s gotten has actually been used to help.

“You got this money, we need an audit done so we can see where it’s going,” said Williams.

ABC57 spoke with Mayor Marcus Muhammad Monday who said funding has been used for improvements at the city’s filtration plant, to test homes for lead every six months and for the replacement of 40 pipes so far – and work will start on 100 more in November.

There will be another distribution event Friday from 2 – 6 p.m. at God’s Household of Faith on Pipestone Road.

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