Benton Harbor Resources

Benton Harbor Resources

After learning about our work in Flint, residents in Benton Harbor, Michigan reached out to us for help. They noticed something wasn’t right with their water long before the city released a statement in October of 2018. We tested their water and helped to elevate their voices to the city and state agencies. After months of working to hold the city accountable, the Health Department started providing filters to every resident (not just those who had their water tested). The answer isn’t as simple as just a filter though, so we want to make sure residents have the resources and support they need until they can be sure they trust their taps. If you live in Benton Harbor here are some resources we hope will help. We also encourage you to use resources on the Berrien County Health Department Page.

Is there lead in my water?

A number of homes in Benton Harbor were found to have over the sate action level of lead in the drinking water last year. The only way to know if your water is safe is to have it tested. Reach out to the city to have your water tested for no fee. If you are a Benton Harbor City water customer, you can contact the city by calling 269-927-8400 ext.1143.

Lead can enter drinking water when it comes in contact with lead service lines or internal plumbing made with lead. The longer water sits in those pipes, the more lead it may contain. Without a point-of-use filter certified to remove lead (Michigan agencies suggest Pur), the safest thing you can do is flush your pipes for 5 minutes before drinking, cooking, or washing vegetables after your sink has not been in use for more than 6 hours.

To Flush or not to Flush

True or False: You don’t need to flush if you have a point-of-use filter? FALSE

If your filter hasn’t been used in a while, water will sit inside the unit and harmful bacteria can build up in the filters. We recommend, based off research from the University of Michigan, flushing from the filtered side of the unit for 15-20 seconds after long periods of no use (in the morning, after getting home from work/school). Read more about when to flush below.

Without a filter:

If you are going to cook or drink from a faucet without a certified point-of-use filter follow the following flushing rules.

If your taps have not been used for 6 consecutive hours (after sleeping or being away for work/school) Berrien County Health Department recommends flushing pipes for at least 5 minutes. This can include washing dishes or doing a load of laundry. After this flush, run water directly from the faucet you will drink or cook from until it runs cold.

With a filter:

When using water from a point-of-use filter certified to remove lead follow these flushing rules.

After initial installation or when inserting a new cartridge, flush water from the filter side (lever down) for 5 minutes.

When filters have gone unused for an extended period of time (6 hours), flush for 15-20 seconds to remove bacteria that could have built up in the filter.

Filters and Replacement Cartridges 

Have you picked up your FREE filter yet? Need a replacement cartridge?

Find your closest distribution center.  If you can’t make it to a center, contact the Berrien County Health Department for alternate pick-up times, mail delivery or home deliveries for outstanding circumstances. You can reach their Public Health Hotline at 1-800-815-5485.

If you have unique needs (are a landlord or run a daycare for example) we encourage you to reach out to the hotline.

*Filters and cartridges will be available 18-24 months after city water no longer exceeds the action level for lead (15 ppb).

If you become frustrated or need extra assistance contact our staff at izzy@freshwaterfuture.org or (231) 348-8200 and press 5 for Izzy. We will be sure your concerns are addressed 🙂

Filter Education Materials

Getting a filter certified to remove lead is one thing, but knowing how to use and maintain it is critical!

Watch this video for a step by step guide on how to attach your filter to your faucet!

Things to remember!

At first installation flush water from the filtered side (should be a slower stream coming from the bulky cylinder end of the unit) for 5 minutes. Anytime you replace the cartridge you should do this.

When the light turns yellow it’s time to replace your cartridge. The device that attaches to your sink (we call it a “Flow Directing Unit”) simply holds the filter in place. The true filter is the removable cartridge inside the larger cylinder shape of the flow directing unit that is attached your sink. The cartridge needs to be replaced every 100 gallons or so. (This will last a family of four 2-3 months). If your light is red, your filter is not effective and you should use the water as if you do not have a filter on it. If you live in Benton Harbor a replacement cartridge can be mailed to you. 

Clean (or replace) your aerator every so often. Freshwater Future, the Health Department, and most plumbers recommend keeping up with your aerators at least every 6 months. Cleaning them can help stop large minerals from coming out of your faucet. This is an easy way to help reduce lead coming from faucets in your bathroom that may not have a filter on them. This does not make the water safe to drink in and of itself. Learn more about how to clean your aerators.

Here are some other things to remember:

  • NEVER use hot water on the filtered water side of a point-of-use filter.
  • If you receive a boil water advisory or do not drink advisory from the city – follow the advisory and replace your cartridge after the advisory is lifted.
  • Use only filtered or bottled water for making powdered baby formula. WIC clients can contact the Benton Harbor WIC Clinic at (269) 926-7121 for additional assistance. 
  • Do not heat or boil water to remove lead. This will only concentrate it.
  • Cold unfiltered water can be used to brush your teeth (we recommend letting children brush their teeth with filtered water as they may swallow water accidentally).
  • Lead can not be absorbed through your skin. Bathing or showing in your water will not cause lead to enter your bloodstream. If you have irritated skin or rashes, we recommend contacting your primary care physician or the health department: 1-800-815-5485

Who do I call?

For questions about lead service lines or getting your water tested:

City of Benton Harbor
(269) 927-8400 ext 1143

For questions on how to get blood lead testing for a child or request a unit or replacement cartridge.

Berrien County Health Department
Hotline: 1-800-815-5485
Main Number: (269) 926-7121

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Images courtesy of Steven Huyser-Honig,
West Grand Boulevard Collaborative, & Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve.