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Program to help Benton Harbor residents with water bills

November 11, 2021 GMT

BENTON HARBOR, Mich. (AP) — State officials announced a pilot program Wednesday aimed at helping eligible residents of a Michigan city where there’s been a lead crisis pay water and wastewater bills.

The federally-funded program is designed to help households that have had water disconnected or are facing disconnection pay to have it restored. That includes other potential related costs including trash, cable and internet, according to the Michigan Department of Human Services and Benton Harbor.

“Access to safe drinking water is fundamental to the health and well-being of all people,” the state agency’s director, Elizabeth Hertel, said in a news release. “The Low-Income Household Water Assistance Program will provide critical emergency support to qualified Benton Harbor residents, so they are not forced to choose between paying for water services and other necessities.”

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To qualify residents must meet income guidelines among other things.

Much of city’s water distribution system is around 100 years old. The predominantly Black, mostly low-income community is about 100 miles (160 kilometers) from Chicago.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has vowed to spend millions of dollars to replace lead service lines.

The state is continue to provide bottled water for cooking and drinking. Also, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has announced plans to test water in hundreds of homes to check certified filters given residents by the state to remove lead from the drinking water.