Infrastructure Law’s Lead Pipe Removal Effort Is Wildly Popular

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A new poll shows that 7 in 10 Americans believe that lead pipes in U.S. drinking water systems are a “crisis” or “major problem.” And more than 9 out of 10—across Democrats, Republicans, and independents—support requiring water utilities to completely remove these lead service lines within 10 years. In fact, only the economy and inflation were considered more pressing issues, with fixing lead in our drinking water polling above even addressing crime.

While most voters don’t even know that the “Bipartisan Infrastructure Law” (formally called the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act) was enacted a year ago, according to earlier polling, they do know they want safe drinking water. This important infrastructure law takes a big step forward in helping the country achieve this and puts a big down payment of $15 billion toward the overwhelmingly popular task of removing lead pipes. The infrastructure law’s funding for lead pipe removal is just now beginning to work its way into state coffers, so new projects to pull lead pipes out of the ground are expected to begin soon. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently issued the first round of $3 billion in funding to states for removing lead service lines. As NRDC’s 2021 survey of all 50 states found, there are potentially 9 to 12 million of these pipes, so this funding is needed urgently. Estimates for the cost of removing all the lead pipes range from $45 billion to an industry estimate of as high as $60 billion.

Waldorf & Sons crew members replacing a lead service line in Flint, MI

Brittany Greeson for NRDC

While more funding will be required to finish the job for every home with a lead service line, and while 9 in 10 Americans believe that EPA needs to strengthen its rules to ensure that every one of these dangerous lead pipes is removed, there is good reason for hope. Today, one year after the enactment of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, we can all celebrate the fact that soon, millions of Americans will be able to go to their kitchen, turn on their tap, and have safe drinking water for their children because of the investments made by the new law. I’ll drink to that!

About the Authors

Erik D. Olson

Senior Strategic Director, Health and Food, Healthy People & Thriving Communities Program

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