Benton Harbor starts accepting bids to replace lead pipes

David Eggert
Associated Press

Lansing – Benton Harbor leaders announced Monday that the city is accepting bids from contractors for an ambitious project to replace all lead water pipes no later than 2023 due to elevated levels of the toxic metal in the municipal supply.

Because the “action level” for lead has been exceeded, for three years, the estimated 2,800 service lines generally must be removed over 14 to 15 years under federal and state regulations. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer promised last month to spend millions of dollars to replace them in 18 months, with work starting next spring.

Benton Harbor Mayor Marcus Muhammad

Benton Harbor formally invited bids last week and released details about the plan Monday.

“We’re very excited here in the city to make that announcement. I know that it will be received gladly,” Mayor Marcus Muhammad said in an interview.

Residents have been encouraged to use bottled water for cooking, drinking, brushing teeth, rinsing foods and mixing powdered infant formula.

Muhammad said he anticipates contractors lining up to bid for the work.

“It’s almost like a gold rush, for lack of a better example, any time there’s $30 million on the table,” he said.

Companies will be required to use trenchless technology to minimize the disruption to properties. They will have to restore the condition of driveways, sidewalks and landscaping.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services said in a Monday evening news release that the state is working to hire two part- or full-time plumbing inspector positions and those jobs will be based in Benton Harbor. Applicants must apply online no later than Dec. 13.