650,000 Lead Pipes May Deliver Water to Homes in Ohio

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

Columbus, OH — Ohio has 650,000 lead pipes delivering water to people’s homes statewide, the second highest number of any state in the nation, according to a new survey from NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council). The state also has the second-highest number of lead lines per capita nationwide (at 5,509 lead lines per 100,000 people).

NRDC's new national survey of lead service lines—the lead pipes that carry water from water mains under the street to homes—found 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 to people’s health, particularly for children.

“Ohio needs to pull hundreds of thousands of lead pipes out of the ground to ensure safe water for all its residents,” said Dan Sawmiller, Ohio energy policy director at NRDC. “President Biden’s American Jobs Plan will help Ohio to address this safe drinking water crisis while creating high quality jobs repairing this critical infrastructure. Removing these lead pipes will help all Ohio families, especially low-income families who are most impacted by lead exposure.”

NRDC’s survey also revealed:

  • The top 10 states with the most lead pipes, ranked in numeric order are: 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.
  • Ohio has the second-highest number of lead pipes per capita in the U.S. The top 10 states with the most lead pipes per 100,000 people are as follows: WI, OH, KS, MO, IL, IA, NE, DC, MI, MN.
  • NRDC estimates there may be up to 12.8 million lead pipes in the U.S.: 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.

“Like many other states around the U.S., Ohio is facing a lead pipe crisis. Safe and reliable drinking water is essential to life and must be readily available for all. Ohio workers are trained and able to replace these dangerous lead pipes and ensure every Ohioan has access to clean drinking water,” said Tim Burga, President of the Ohio AFL-CIO. “Senators have a real opportunity to make the nation’s water infrastructure safe and equitable by including funding for full replacement of all lead service lines and emphasizing that the workers should be local and be paid a prevailing wage.”

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 investments that address 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

NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) 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.

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