U.S. Senators Call for Better Protections Against Lead in Tap Water
Amid National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week, 15 U.S. Senators are appealing to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for increased measures that will protect people from lead in tap water.
The senators, led by U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) and U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), are asking for a lower threshold of lead to be allowed in drinking water as well as for lead pipes to be replaced in the next 10 years and for remediation efforts to equally benefit low-income communities.
“Lead service lines (LSLs) pose an unacceptable health threat and disproportionately plague older, lower-income neighborhoods and communities of color. Black children especially have higher blood lead levels, and are more likely to be poisoned by lead than white children and more likely to live in communities with LSLs,” the senators wrote. “There is a concerning lack of data on lead presence in drinking water and LSLs in Native American communities, preventing mitigation measures from reaching those most in need. Disadvantaged low-income communities and communities of color are at greater cumulative risk from lead and as such they must be the top funding priority.”
Although lead pipes have been banned in the U.S. since 1986, many homes and cities still have old infrastructure, The Guardian reported. This leaves millions of people at risk of lead water contamination. Lead may cause brain damage and developmental delays in children and can even lead to seizures, comas or premature death. In adults, lead exposure may lead to decreased kidney function, cardiovascular effects and reproductive challenges.
The Biden administration’s Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Acts (IIJA) has allocated $2.9 billion to the EPA for states, Tribes and territories to remove lead service lines along with $11.7 billion in funds to the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund that can also be used to remove lead pipes. The senators support increased funding to prevent lead contamination in drinking water, and noted that the EPA needs to ensure cities do not charge residents for lead pipe replacements.
“Service lines should be fully replaced regardless of homeowners’ ability to pay and the costs should include repairs to homes from this replacement. The City of Newark, New Jersey, has shown this can be done quickly, efficiently, and equitably while creating good-paying union jobs for local residents,” the senators wrote.
Additionally, the senators are calling on the EPA to strengthen the Lead and Copper Rule by the end of 2023 by requiring full, rather than partial, lead service line replacements; improve lead monitoring requirements; update treatment requirements to make water less corrosive and to prevent lead from leaching into water from plumbing; reduce the acceptable lead level to no more than five parts per billion; and offer more public education and notifications on lead risks. The letter also concludes by asking for at-home lead testing kits to be made available to residents.
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