Benton Harbor's water issues also impacting businesses

NOW: Benton Harbor’s water issues also impacting businesses

BENTON HARBOR, Mich. -- The water crisis in Benton Harbor is not just impacting residents, but businesses ability to stay open as well.

“I’d say we’re using two cases a night and I don’t know when there’s going to be an end in sight,” said Joe Mara, Manager at Babe’s Lounge. 

Mara has worked at Babe’s Lounge since 1985 and like many of Benton Harbor’s buildings, it’s rich in history, but that also means it still has the original lead service lines in the ground.

Once the city advised everyone to drink bottled water at the beginning of the month, Babe’s got their own cases to serve customers, but when a water main broke last week, it left everyone without water.

Even though it’s now been fixed, the water’s not safe yet.  

“If we want to use any type of vegetables we have to wash them with bottled water, we’re not allowed to use our guns for pop so we have to buy pop, we’re not allowed to use our ice machine so we’re buying bags of ice, when we as workers wash our hands we have to use sanitizer after the soap and water,” said Mara.

Michigan EGLE said all service lines are under the state’s law, but businesses aren’t included in that lead sampling requirement the city must submit on homes each month.

As for businesses being included in bottled water distributions or funding for service line replacements, residents will come first. 

“It’s a pain in the butt but it could be worse, you could be a resident and now you’re talking about having to bathe and shower, so it’s not as bad as it seems,” said Mara.

The Berrien County Health Department said bacterial testing had not yet concluded if restaurants have the all clear to use water - with the exception of drinking.

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