Meals on Wheels adds bottled water to deliveries in Benton Harbor

The Detroit News

Meals on Wheels of Southwest Michigan will start delivering water along with meals in Benton Harbor after years of tests found drinking water exceeded allowable lead levels, the state said Monday.

In addition to the free distribution of bottled water, the Department of Health and Human Services said homebound residents enrolled in the food program will start receiving bottled water with their meals on Tuesday.

A forklift driver hauls a pallet of bottled water to hand out to residents of Benton Harbor on Oct. 7, 2021 from the Southwest Michigan Community Action Agency. Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel on Friday warned residents in Benton Harbor and surrounding communities to be on the lookout for bottled water price gouging amid the city's water crisis.

“We deliver meals to many seniors in Benton Harbor who are unable to get out of the house to pick up food,” said Linda Strohl, executive director of Meals on Wheels of Southwest Michigan. “They cannot access bottled water unless we can bring it to them. I am pleased to work with state and local officials to deliver clean water to these residents.”

Free bottled water is being distributed to residents after state and city officials treated the city's drinking water with a corrosion chemical blend that failed to control lead levels for more than two years.

Residents, safe water advocates and environmentalists have filed an emergency petition asking the federal government to intervene to restore safe drinking water to the majority-Black city, saying while the state waited to see if treatment to cut lead to acceptable levels in the water would work, they failed to warn residents the water was unsafe or provide alternatives.

The state of Michigan announced it would provide bottled water and water filters in September. Distribution began on Sept. 30.

On Oct. 6, it urged Benton Harbor residents to drink and cook only with bottled water.

Last week, Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist vowed that the state would find millions of dollars needed to replace lead service lines in 18 months.