White House Unveils Plan to Replace All Lead Pipes in Next 10 Years
Workers with East Bay Municipal Utility District install a new water pipe on April 22, 2021, in Walnut Creek, California. Justin Sullivan / Getty Images
The Biden administration has released the “Biden-Harris Lead Pipe and Paint Action Plan,” an ambitious plan to replace all the lead water pipes and service lines in the country in the next decade. The plan also intends to provide support to local communities for lead paint removal. The administration seeks to engage local, state and federal agencies and resources in the plan’s implementation, and states are being asked to prioritize underserved communities.
As many as 10 million households in America and 400,000 schools and child care facilities are serviced by lines, pipes or fixtures containing lead, and over half of U.S. children are at risk of lead exposure, the White House press release said. People with low income and communities of color are more likely to be exposed to drinking water contaminated with the toxic metal, while Black people of non-Hispanic descent are more than twice as likely to live in housing that is substandard and therefore presents a greater risk of exposure to the chips and dust from deteriorating lead-based paint, CBS News reported.
“Because of inequitable infrastructure development and disinvestment, low-income communities and communities of color are disproportionately exposed to these risks. President Biden and Vice President Harris believe this is unacceptable and must change,” the press release said.
The funding for the Lead Pipe and Paint Action Plan includes $15 billion from last month’s bipartisan infrastructure bill for the EPA. The EPA is allocating $2.9 billion for states, Tribes and territories to replace lead service lines, and asking states to prioritize underserved communities.
As part of the plan’s implementation, Department of Housing and Urban Development grants will be awarded to state and local government agencies. Implementation of the plan will also include hubs to support the development of inventories for local water agencies’ lead service lines, and a revised plan from the EPA for reducing lead exposure.
For years, residents of some towns in Michigan have had to rely on bottled water to do daily tasks like cook and brush their teeth because of lead-contaminated drinking water, reported CBS News. Last month, thousands of residents in Flint were compensated after years of exposure to unhealthy levels of lead in their water when a federal judge approved a $626.25 million settlement, CBS News reported at the time.
“For far too long, American families from Flint to Houston and across the country have had to live with the uncertainty of not knowing whether the water that comes out of their taps is putting their children’s health at risk. Removing and replacing toxic lead pipes will protect our families, while creating thousands of good union jobs,” Sierra Club President Ramón Cruz said in a statement about the new plan.
Since lead is harmful even at low levels, there is no recognized safe level for drinking water, according to the EPA. Exposure can cause developmental issues in children and higher blood pressure, impaired kidney function and reproductive issues in adults.
“The bottom line is that there is no reason in the 21st century for why people are still exposed to this substance that was poisoning people back in the 18th century,” Vice President Kamala Harris remarked in a speech yesterday, CBS News reported. “But here’s the truth, and it’s a hard truth: Millions of people in our country, many of them children, are still exposed to lead every day.”