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Benton Harbor – Residents in a southwestern Michigan city who are concerned about lead-tainted drinking water will soon have access to free water filters.

The Herald-Palladium reports that the Berrien County Health Department will have filters and replacement cartridges available for Benton Harbor residents starting Feb. 4. Free water testing kits can also be picked up at City Hall.

The filters are important because boiling water doesn’t remove lead, said Nicki Britten, a health officer with the county health department.

Experts say children are the most vulnerable, and that high lead levels can cause health problems and developmental delays. Tests show lead hasn’t been negatively affecting local children, Britten said.

“We have continued to monitor the rate of blood lead levels in children living in the city of Benton Harbor,” she said. “To date, there have been no increases in elevated blood lead levels in the city’s children.”

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality issued an advisory in October that some Benton Harbor homes had tested for higher-than-acceptable levels of lead in the drinking water.

Lead can get into water by leaching from lead service lines and older water fixtures, such as faucets. Lead at or above 15 parts per billion has been found in about 50 of the 320 water testing kits that the city has received, according to City Manager Darwin Watson.

The city received $300,000 in state grant money last year to replace lead and galvanized steel water lines. The city is conducting an inventory and will then begin replacing lead service lines, Waterson said.

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