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Berrien Co. Health Dept. continuing to offer free water filters, cartridges, installation assistance

Jennifer Weingart
WVPE Public Radio

The Berrien County Health Department has been offering free filters to reduce lead in drinking water since 2019. But an Environmental Protection Agency study recently found that people may need more help installing and operating the filters properly.

Chioma Ejiofor, the health department’s emerging threats supervisor, said the department is taking steps to address those findings.

“In partnership with MDHHS, we built a system so that when residents interact with us — either coming in or over the phone — and are requesting a filter unit, there’s a question we have to ask of whether or not they need assistance installing those filters,” she said.

Ejiofor said if the answer is yes, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services will send a sanitarian to help within one business day.

If the answer is no, “they’ll get a call in about a week that says, ‘Last week, you said you didn’t need help — we’re just checking to see if you got the help you needed, or if there’s anything we can assist you with,” Ejiofor said.

If the resident still says they want to try it on their own, Ejiofor said the health department will call back in a day or two to make sure they got their filter installed.

Filter screens need to be regularly cleaned and checked for debris, and cartridges need to be replaced every two months.

The health department provides six months’ worth of replacement cartridges and will automatically notify each recipient when it’s time to pick up a new set.

After collecting water samples from 200 Benton Harbor homes, the EPA found that all samples from properly installed and maintained filters had lead levels below 5 parts per billion — the standard for most home filters.

Though there’s no safe level of lead in drinking water, Ejiofor said filtered water is still safe to use for cooking, washing and drinking.

“In every environment, you’re going to find some little trace of lead in everyone, just because of how widespread lead use was,” she said. “There’s never really anywhere where we will get to zero lead. But we’re trying to make sure that we’re getting as little lead as possible.”

Benton Harbor residents can still pick up free bottled water at several distribution sites.

Residents can receive free filters by mail by calling 844-875-9211. Filters are also available at the following locations in Benton Harbor:

  • Berrien County Health Department (2149 E. Napier Ave.) from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Monday through Friday
  • Center for Better Health (100 W. Main St.) from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Tuesday through Friday

Ejiofor said residents with more questions can call the health department’s water hotline at 1-800-815-5485.

Contact Gemma at or follow her on Twitter at @gemma_dicarlo.

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Gemma DiCarlo came to Indiana by way of Athens, Georgia. She graduated from the University of Georgia in 2020 with a degree in Journalism and certificates in New Media and Sustainability. She has radio experience from her time as associate producer of Athens News Matters, the flagship public affairs program at WUGA-FM.