House Passes Legislation to Fund Removal of Lead Water Pipes

The House on Wednesday approved new legislation to fund the replacement of the nation’s estimated 10 million lead water lines.

The amendment, sponsored by Rep. Rashida Tlaib, a Michigan Democrat, authorizes $4.5 billion dollars a year over the next five years to remove lead service lines. The amendment is part of the Moving Forward Act, a $1.5 trillion infrastructure and transportation package.

Some 5.5 million American residents received water from systems that exceeded the EPA’s lead action level from 2015 to 2018, a Natural Resources Defense Council report found. Detroit alone has at least 125,000 lead service lines. The NRDC notes the importance of clean drinking water during the Covid-19 crisis, and the overlap between cities with high levels of lead-contaminated water and those most affected by the pandemic this spring.

Over 100 local and national environmental and justice organizations signed a letter in support of the Tlaib amendment. “Now, more than ever, families should not have to worry about whether their drinking water is harming their health,” the Environmental Defense Fund said in a statement.

The bill faces a tough path forward, however. Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, called the bill “pointless political theater,” while the White House said it would issue a veto.

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