White House Announces Lead Action Plan


The White House recently released its Lead Pipe and Paint Action Plan as part of the bipartisan infrastructure law, to deliver clean drinking water, replace lead pipes and remediate lead paint. The goal of the plan is to replace all lead pipes in the next decade.

"There is no reason in the 21st century for why people are still exposed to this substance that was poisoning people back in the 18th century. There is no good reason," Vice President Kamala Harris said during a speech at the AFL-CIO in Washington.

According to the White House, approximately 10 million American households and 400,000 schools land childcare centers are served by a lead service line or pipe. About 24 million housing units have lead-based paint hazards, which reportedly 4 million of house young children.

The plan, according to the White House Fact Sheet, features 15 new actions with more than 10 federal agencies. These actions are divided into three categories, including getting resources to communities, updating rules and strengthen enforcement and reducing exposure in disadvantaged communities, schools, daycare centers and public housing, including:

  • Announcing $2.9 billion from the bipartisan infrastructure law for lead pipe replacement to states, tribes and territories;
  • Committing to issue national bipartisan infrastructure law water investments guidance to states;
  • Clarifying state, local and tribal governments can use fiscal recovery funds – the $350 billion aid provided under the American Rescue Plan– for replacing lead service lines and protecting communities against lead in water;
  • Establishing regional technical assistance hubs to fast track lead service line removal projects;
  • Awarding grants to protect children and families from lead paint and home health hazards;
  • Leveraging existing U.S. Department of Agriculture funding to replace lead service lines;
  • Directing federal agencies to leverage existing funding;
  • Announcing the development of a new regulation to protect communities from lead in drinking water;
  • Committing to publish new guidance on lead service lines;
  • Closing gaps in childhood lead testing;
  • Tracking the benefits of lead pipe and paint investments in line with Justice40;
  • Committing to remove lead service lines and paint hazards in housing;
  • Releasing an updated strategy to reduce lead exposure; and
  • Establishing a new cabinet level partnership for lead remediation in schools and daycare centers.

The Cabinet Level Partnership for Lead Remediation in Schools and Childcare Centers will include partnerships between the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Department of Education, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the USDA.

“The Biden-Harris Administration will correct these wrongs and use every tool at its disposal to eliminate all lead service lines and remediate lead paint,” stated the press release.

In terms of funding, in additional to the $350 billion provided in the American Rescue Plan, the White House is investing:

  • $15 billion of direct funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law for lead service line replacements at EPA through the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (SRF), and an additional $11.7 billion in SRF funding for which lead pipes replacement is eligible;
  • $9 billion in the Build Back Better Act for lead remediation grants to disadvantaged communities through the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act (WIIN) program, including for schools and childcare centers at EPA;
  • $1 billion in the Build Back Better Act for rural water utilities to remove lead pipes at the USDA;
  • $5 billion in the Build Back Better Act for the mitigation and removal of lead-based paint, lead faucets and fixtures, and other housing-related health hazards in low-income households, by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD); and
  • $65 billion of Build Back Better Act funding for public housing agencies and $5 billion for other federally-assisted housing preservation and rehabilitation, which public housing agencies and owners can use to improve housing quality; this can include replacing lead pipes and privately-owned service lines.

The White House states that low-income people and communities of color are disproportionately exposed to the risks of lead-contaminated drinking water, including Non-Hispanic Black people being more than twice as likely as non-Hispanic white people to live in moderately or severely substandard housing.

The EPA’s 2021 Economic Analysis on the benefits of lead service line replacement showed significant increases in lifetime earnings, associated with avoided intelligence quotient (IQ) loss in children, as well as reduced risks of cardiovascular disease, kidney disease and other adverse health effects.

Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill Details

On Nov. 15, Biden signed into the law the largest federal investment in infrastructure in more than a decade.

Projects approved in the legislation, according to the White House’s Fact Sheet, will include:

  • Delivering clean water to all American families and eliminate the nation’s lead service lines ($55 billion);
  • Ensuring access to reliable high-speed internet ($65 billion);
  • Repairing and rebuilding roads and bridges with a focus on climate change mitigation, resilience, equity and safety ($110 billion);
  • Improving transportation options for millions of Americans and reduce greenhouse emissions through the largest investment in public transit in U.S. history ($89.9 billion);
  • Upgrading airports and ports to strengthen supply chains and prevent disruptions that cause inflation, also creating jobs and reducing emissions ($17 billion);
  • Making the largest investment in passenger rail since the creation of Amtrak ($66 billion);
  • Building a national network of electric vehicle chargers ($7.5 billion);
  • Upgrading power infrastructure to deliver clean, reliable energy and deploy energy technology to achieve a zero-emissions future ($65 billion);
  • Making infrastructure resilient against the impacts of climate change, cyber-attacks and extreme weather events ($50 billion); and
  • Delivering the largest investment in tackling legacy pollution in American history by cleaning up Superfund and brownfield sites, reclaiming abandoned mines and capping orphaned oil and gas wells ($21 billion).

The White House also reports that the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, alongside the Build Back Framework, will add on average 1.5 million jobs per year for the next ten years.

Recent State Lead Mitigation Actions

In August, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed a new bill into law, requiring that hundreds of public water systems in the state have their inventories taken for lead pipes so that the infrastructure can officially be replaced.

The catalog and replacement efforts are slated to take place over the next 10 years.

“This is a crisis that has been building for decades, and in some cases, centuries,” Murphy said, noting that two-thirds of housing stock in New Jersey predates 1980, several years before lead-based solder was banned in plumbing.

According to Sean Jackson, CEO of Isles, a Trenton, New Jersey-based nonprofit community development and environmental organization, more than 225,000 children in the state were diagnosed with elevated blood lead levels between 2000 and 2015.

In additional testing, officials found that lead levels had risen several times higher than the federally mandated limit.

As part of a three-bill package, Gov. Murphy is requiring that all water systems—private or publicly owned—will be required to replace its lead pipe infrastructure. The signing arrives almost two years after the governor pledged to remove the danger of lead in New Jersey.

The endeavor is estimated to cost about $2.65 billion and requires that the water companies pay to cover their own replacements.

However, Gov. Murphy highlighted that the companies will be permitted to raise rates on property owners to pay for the pipe replacements, though it's possible federal funds—such as what’s been outlined in President Joe Biden’s infrastructure package—could help cover the expenses as well.

New Jersey is the first state in the country to provide a definite timeline for lead pipe replacement. While the cut-off is 10 years, the legislation allows for a five-year extension if needed.

Earlier this month, the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy announced the development of its Corrosion Control Advisory Panel to reduce lead in Michigan drinking water.

“The announcement comes as the state accelerates efforts to reduce lead exposures caused by aging water distribution infrastructure in several communities throughout the state, with the goal of removing lead contamination from Michigan drinking water statewide,” wrote EGLE.

The panel will report to the EGLE’s Drinking Water and Environmental Health Division, which reportedly regulates 2,685 public drinking water systems under Michigan’s Lead and Copper Rule.

According to the release, potential roles of the panel include:

  • Providing advice on strategies to ensure compliance with LCR corrosion protection requirements at drinking water systems where corrosion protection is triggered, is not effective or needs to be optimized;
  • Providing input into the selection and optimization of corrosion protection methods;
  • Advising on interim actions that would be most effective to ensure public protection while corrosion protection is implemented;
  • Recommending and assessing corrosion control studies and evaluating corrosion protection effectiveness; and
  • Identifying metrics used to assess corrosion control effectiveness.

Tagged categories: Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); Government; Health & Safety; Health and safety; Infrastructure; Infrastructure; Lead; Lead; NA; North America; Pipelines; President Biden; Program/Project Management; Safety; Water/Wastewater

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