Press Release

Nearly a Half Million Lead Pipes May Deliver Water to Homes in Michigan

President Biden’s American Jobs Plan aims to remove every lead pipe from the ground

Jesus Canchola Sanchez
jcanchola@nrdc.org
312-847-6808

Lansing, MI — Despite being the first state to mandate removal of every lead pipe delivering water to residents’ homes, there are 460,000 lead pipes still in the ground in Michigan, the third highest number of any state in the nation, according to a new analysis by NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council). Michigan also has one of the highest rates of lead drinking water pipes per capita in the nation.

NRDC’s new national survey of lead service lines—the lead pipes that carry water from water mains under the street to homes—found that between 9.7 million and 12.8 million lead pipes are connected to residences. All 50 states have lead pipes carrying drinking water to as many as 12 million people, and potentially more, who may not suspect their tap water is contaminated with lead. There is no safe level of lead, which causes irreversible harm, particularly to children.

“Michigan was the first state to mandate removal of lead service lines, but this analysis highlights the need to do that work even faster,” said Cyndi Roper, senior policy advocate, safe water initiative, at NRDC. “With funds from the Biden administration’s American Jobs Plan, the state can cut the current timeline in half—removing the remaining pipes in 10 years instead of 20, as currently required by Michigan’s Lead and Copper Rule. Removing lead pipes quickly and safely will help all families, especially low-income families that are impacted the most by lead exposure.”

NRDC’s survey also found:

  • The top 10 states with the most lead pipes, ranked in numeric order, are as follows: IL, OH, MI, NY, NJ, MO, WI, IN, TX, MN. Together these 10 states have nearly 4 million lead pipes.
  • Lead pipes are found in every state in the nation. It is not an urban issue; rural states have lead pipes, too.
  • The top 10 states with the most lead pipes per 100,000 people are as follows (ranked in numeric order of lead pipes per 100,000 people): WI, OH, KS, MO, IL, IA, NE, DC, MI, MN.
  • NRDC estimates there may be up to 12.8 million lead pipes: NRDC confirmed 6.2 million known lead pipes; additionally, there are from 3.5 million to as many as 6.6 million service lines that are currently of unknown material that are projected to be lead.

NRDC requested estimates of total lead water pipes from all 50 states and Washington, D.C. Michigan is among the states that were able to provide NRDC with statewide lead pipe estimates due to measures in the state’s Lead and Copper Rule secured by NRDC and its partners. Michigan recently estimated fewer known lead pipes than the previous industry estimate but, at the same time, categorized hundreds of thousands of lead pipes as “unknown” material.

“It’s urgent we fix Michigan’s lead pipe crisis. Water is essential to life and should be safely available to all. Replacing service lines would be the best way to ensure every person gets water safe from lead,” said Sylvia Orduño, Community Organizer with Michigan Welfare Rights Organization and the People’s Water Board Coalition. “Michigan’s representatives in Congress must take action today to make the nation’s water infrastructure safe and equitable by providing grant funding for full replacement of all lead services lines, prioritizing low-income communities and communities of color.”

Flint, Michigan’s water crisis, the result of massive lead contamination of its drinking water, provided the nation and the world a glimpse into the frailty of aging water infrastructure in Flint and beyond. President Biden’s American Jobs Plan would help every community in the nation remove its lead pipes, by providing $45 billion to states to pull lead pipes out of the ground—creating high quality jobs while helping to eliminate the public health disaster of lead-contaminated drinking water. Biden’s plan would create a comprehensive package of strategic investment that addresses critical priorities, like improving the nation’s failing water infrastructure, and climate action in a moment the nation urgently needs both.

NRDC collected data through a survey of all 50 states and Washington, D.C. For the 40 states that either fail to track or could not provide an estimate of the number of lead pipes in the ground statewide, NRDC relied upon a 2016 voluntary industry survey that federal auditors called a “lower bound estimate” of the number of lead lines. NRDC then projected the number of additional lead service lines that are likely to be present among the pipes of unknown composition based on data collected from other states.

To see NRDC’s research and maps of lead pipes found in every state, see this link:
Lead Pipes Are Widespread and Found in Every State

###

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 3 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world's natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Bozeman, MT, and Beijing. Visit us at www.nrdc.org and follow us on Twitter @NRDC.

Join Us

When you sign up you'll become a member of NRDC's Activist Network. We will keep you informed with the latest alerts and progress reports.