Biden Administration’s announcement is crucial to deliver safer drinking water where it’s needed most
Washington, D.C. – The White House today convened leaders from across the country who are striving to accelerate the replacement of lead water pipes and focus that effort on communities with the greatest health burdens.
Funding for those replacements comes largely from the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which President Biden signed into law in November 2021. More than $15 billion is now flowing to states and local water utilities—bringing both safer drinking water to millions of Americans and many jobs for skilled workers in affected communities.
At a White House event today, Vice President Kamala Harris, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Marcia L. Fudge and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael Regan held a leadership roundtable with a group of mayors and representatives from water utilities, foundations, and nonprofits, including Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), to emphasize the administration’s commitment to supporting full replacement of all lead pipes within 10 years.
EPA estimates 9 million pipes currently bring contaminated water into homes and businesses across the United States—putting millions at risk for devastating harm, including permanent neurological damage and coronary heart disease.
Children, particularly in low-income communities and communities of color, experience the greatest burden from lead exposure from multiple sources. This is due to many factors, including discriminatory practices in housing that have left communities of color with greater poverty and substandard housing.
In her remarks, Harris called on leaders to support seven principles to reduce lead and protect families and communities that include prioritizing lead remediation efforts in overburdened and underserved communities. These areas are more likely to be exposed to unsafe lead in their homes and environments. The principles promote fully replacing lead service lines—from the street to the house—without creating cost barriers or added financial burdens for residents.
Margot Brown, EDF Vice President, Justice and Equity, said, “It’s encouraging to see this administration address long-standing, harmful health impacts of lead and prioritize the health of future generations. Everyone deserves safe drinking water – and for too long, many communities of color and low-income areas have gone without it. Federal and state government should support local leaders as they try to access this funding to make sure that help gets to the communities experiencing the greatest harm.”
Tom Neltner, Senior Director, Chemicals Policy at EDF, participated in the meeting. “We applaud the White House for its advocacy and leadership to ensure that every community has access to safe drinking water. Too many don’t because of racial segregation, redlining, and underinvestment in neighborhoods predominately comprised of people of color. Today’s event demonstrates that the administration is serious about the full replacement of lead service lines, starting with the communities at greatest risk. The funding is available, and now it’s time for communities to act.”
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