EPA Announces Lead Reduction Funding
Last week, officials from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced a $58 million grant program to protect children from lead in drinking water at schools and childcare facilities across the country.
According to the release, the funding has set an “unprecedented” commitment to delivering clean water to all communities, focusing on historically marginalized and low-income areas.
The release states that for the first time, activities that remove sources of lead in drinking water are now eligible for funding through the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act (WIIN). The grant is reportedly provided to states, territories and Tribes to advance the Biden Administration’s Lead Pipe and Paint Action Plan.
Every child deserves access to clean, safe drinking water - especially in the places they learn and play. EPA is investing $58 million to help protect children from lead in drinking water at schools and childcare facilities.— U.S. EPA (@EPA) July 24, 2023
“I am excited to join local leaders in Boston to announce $58 million in grant funding that can be used to test for lead in drinking water, identify potential sources, and remove those sources to better protect our nation’s children,” said EPA Assistant Administrator Radhika Fox.
“Reducing lead in drinking water is a top priority for the Biden-Harris Administration and EPA is taking a holistic approach — harmonizing drinking water standards with historic infrastructure investments under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law while providing technical assistance to disadvantaged communities to protect all our children from lead in drinking water.”
The EPA is also reportedly releasing a revised grant implementation document, meant to outline new authority from the bipartisan infrastructure law to fund these removal activities. The Voluntary School and Child Care Lead Testing and Reduction Grant Program funds voluntary lead testing, compliance monitoring and lead in drinking water remediation projects.
According to the release, these remediation actions may include, though are not limited to, the removal, installation and replacement of internal plumbing, lead pipes or lead connectors, faucets, water fountains, water filler stations, point-of-use devices and other lead-free apparatus related to drinking water.
The release states that the grant program requires the use of guidance from the EPA’s Training, Testing, and Taking Action (3Ts) Program. Tools and resources from the 3Ts Program reportedly help states, territories and Tribes provide technical assistance and take action to support the health and safety of children in early care and education settings.
Additionally, the program will reportedly advance President Joe Biden’s Justice40 Initiative, which helps address environmental injustice through ensuring that the benefits of federal investments in clean water, clean energy and other programs reach communities that are marginalized, underserved and overburdened by pollution.
The EPA says that this announcement will advance the goals of the Biden Administration’s Lead Pipe and Paint Action Plan and the EPA’s Strategy to Reduce Lead Exposures and Disparities in U.S. Communities.
The announcement was made during an event in Boston by Fox and EPA New England Regional Administrator David W. Cash, along with U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren and U.S. Representative Katherine Clark.
Under these initiatives, the EPA is also developing the Lead and Copper Rule Improvements to strengthen the Agency’s regulatory framework. According to the release, the EPA plans to propose requirements that would result in the replacement of all lead service lines as quickly as possible, along with other actions.
The EPA is also reportedly investing $15 billion in bipartisan infrastructure law funding for lead service line removal and $11.7 billion in general funding through the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund, which can also reportedly be utilized for lead removal projects.
“Thanks to the bipartisan infrastructure law, Massachusetts students and families will rest easier knowing that the water in our schools is safe and free of dangerous toxins like lead,” said Warren at the event. “This investment in our schools and our infrastructure will help support the lasting, resilient water systems our communities deserve.”
Lead Pipe and Paint Action Plan
At the end of 2021, the White House 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.
According to the White House, at the time, 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 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 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: getting resources to communities; updating rules and strengthening enforcement; and reducing exposure in disadvantaged communities, schools, daycare centers and public housing.
The White House stated 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.
In January, the Biden-Harris Administration announced new actions and progress to deliver clean drinking water, replace lead pipes and remediate lead paint based on the Lead Pipe and Paint Action Plan.
The announcement was made at a White House Summit on Accelerating Lead Pipe Replacement hosted by Vice President Kamala Harris, who noted that the Administration is delivering tangible progress on the plan to replace all lead service lines in the country in the next decade.
The Summit featured discussions with state and local officials, along with water utility, labor union and nongovernmental partners, on reducing risks to public health posed by lead pipes.
According to the White House’s fact sheet, the two new major actions included the Biden-Harris Get the Lead Out Partnership in collaboration with more than 100 state and local leaders, nongovernmental organizations, water utilities, labor unions and others; and the creation of Lead Service Line Replacement (LSLR) Accelerators through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
The Get the Lead Out Partnership leverages existing efforts and funding to accelerate the replacement of lead service lines and pipes by the end of the decade, as well as creating good paying jobs and prioritizing lead remediation efforts in underserved communities.
The LSLR Accelerators program will provide start to finish, hands-on support to guide communities through the process of lead service line removals. This will reportedly include support in developing lead service line replacement plans, conducting inventories to identify lead pipes, increasing community outreach and education efforts, and supporting applications for bipartisan infrastructure law funding.
Additionally, at the time of the announcement, the EPA announced that $1.2 billion from the bipartisan infrastructure law revolving loan funds have already reached 23 states for lead service line identification and replacement.