By CBS 2 Chicago Staff

BENTON HARBOR, Mich. (CBS) — A plan to solve water woes plaguing Benton Harbor, Michigan got a shot in the arm on Saturday.

In Benton Harbor – just across Lake Michigan from Chicago – residents are comparing the lead count in their water to Flint on the other side of the state.

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City officials in Benton Harbor acknowledge the water supply has exceeded the U.S. EPA’s “action level” of lead, a 15 parts per billion threshold considered a safety limit for homes, and city officials are urging residents to use only bottled water.

But local and state officials now say with new funding, they are wasting no time getting the lead out.

A bottled water giveaway showed the depth of the problem. Most residents needed the water because their water lines are contaminated.

The lines delivering tap water are ancient.

“I don’t think I should be drinking this,” Kandice Harbor of Chatterbox Bar & Grill told CBS 2’s Chris Tye this week.

And the lines of communication about all of it have been silent in Benton Harbor.

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“Three years of being poisoned. Three years of them just watching them say nothing,” said Rev. Edward Pinkney, who heads the Benton Harbor Community Water Council.

It wasn’t until late August the city of Benton Harbor announced its water supply has exceeded the action level for lead.

Blown past might be more accurate, with samples ranging from 22 to 32 parts per billion in recent years. Anything over 15 is considered action level by the EPA.

“Benton Harbor is Flint right now,” Pinkney said.

But now, millions of dollars in funding are on the way to continue a replacement project that was postponed when federal money dried up.

Benton Harbor Mayor Marcus Muhammad said more homes have been approved for work, starting in November. But he cautions it will take time, and patience.

“You have another list of homes, which is the next round of 80, but we suspect – which is why we allocated for 100 – that when we start the potholing, we’ll find more homes,” Muhammad said.

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Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said 100 percent of Benton Harbor’s pipes should be replaced by May 2023.

CBS 2 Chicago Staff