Senate Committee Unanimously Okays Historic Water Infrastructure Bill, Starts to Get Lead Out
WASHINGTON – The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee today unanimously approved legislation to upgrade the nation’s infrastructure, including drinking water pipes, treatment plants, and wastewater infrastructure. Over $35 billion dollars of funding are authorized to tackle water infrastructure problems, including to start to replace as many as ten million lead water pipes still in use in every state. There is no safe level of lead.
“It’s urgent to fix our aging often decrepit water systems, and we need to be sure that water bills are affordable for low-income families,” said Erik D. Olson, Senior Strategic Director for Health at NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council). “Replacing lead drinking water pipes would be the best way to ensure every person gets water safe from lead. Senators must seize the moment to make the nation’s water infrastructure safe and equitable by including funding for full replacement of all lead service lines, prioritizing low-income communities and communities of color. They also must fund a permanent program to support affordability of water and sewer service for low-income households. Senate leaders should strengthen the bill as it gets to the floor for a full vote.”
A poll released this month found “four in five voters (80%) support funding replacement of lead pipes, including 74% of Trump 2020 voters and 85% of Biden 2020 voters. Overall, 75% of Republican voters, 77% of Independent voters, and 84% of Democratic voters expressed support for the policy. This strong support also held true for different regions of the US and regardless of whether the voter was in a city, suburb, or rural area.”
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) suspended the Trump-era Lead and Copper Rule earlier this month to seek additional public input, particularly from communities with lead-contaminated drinking water. The Trump regulation left millions of people exposed to toxic lead in drinking water, in many cases for another 33 years or more.
Tens of millions of Americans are served by water systems violating the EPA’s weak rules intended to reduce lead levels in drinking water. Water systems with higher percentages of people of color are far more likely to be in violation of drinking water rules and to remain in violation due to ineffective government intervention, according to an analysis by NRDC, the Environmental Justice Health Alliance, and Coming Clean. And people of color are more likely to face water shutoffs because of bills they cannot afford.
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.