Kamala Harris unveils White House plan to replace lead pipes in the US | Daily Mail Online

2021-12-27 08:18:47 By : Ms. Annie Lieu

By Morgan Phillips, Politics Reporter For Dailymail.Com

Published: 10:17 EST, 16 December 2021 | Updated: 18:31 EST, 19 December 2021

Vice President Kamala Harris announced a new $3 billion initiative to replace led pipes and paint across the country, which is coupled with a twice-delayed Trump-era rule to bolster reporting on lead exposure.  

'Lead exposure in our nation, we should all agree, is a national emergency,' the vice president said during remarks at the AFL-CIO headquarters in Washington, D.C. 

The funding will come from the recently-passed bipartisan infrastructure bill, and the Biden administration is calling on states to prioritize 'underserved communities.' 

'Today, more than half of children under six are at risk of lead exposure we cannot let this stand any longer,' Harris said. She added that 10 million American households and 400,000 schools and child care facilities could be exposed to lead in their water pipes.

At the same time as it allows the Trump rule to take effect, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will begin to develop new regulations for lead pipes and paint, to be finalized by 2024. The stricter standards would compel water companies to dig up and replace lead lines for drinking water. 

'Today, more than half of children under six are at risk of lead exposure we cannot let this stand any longer,' Harris said

The EPA estimates there are still 10 million lead pipes that carry drinking water to homes. Biden campaigned on replacing the outdated pipes as part of his plan to update the nation's aging infrastructure. 

The new plan comes nearly eight years after the start of the Flint water crisis.  

'Over the past year, I have visited with and heard from communities in Chicago, Flint, Jackson, and many other areas that are impacted by lead in drinking water,' said EPA administrator Michael Regan in a statement. 'These conversations have underscored the need to proactively remove lead service lines, especially in low-income communities.'

The Trump-era rule included a first-ever requirement for testing water sources in schools and child-care settings and notifying residents within 24 hours if testing shows unsafe lead levels. However, the rule developed under Trump did not mandate the removal of the nation's millions of lead pipes. 

Biden officials said they were allowing the Trump-era rule to take effect while developing a new one because it was better than the 1991 'Lead and Copper Rule,' but did not go far enough to tackle the problem of lead pipes.

President Biden is moving forward with a $3 billion initiative twice delayed under President Trump to replace lead pipes and paint across the U.S.

Workers with East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD) install new water pipe on April 22, 2021 in Oakland, California 

City workers unload a truck containing pallets of bottled water to distribute during a water filter distribution event on October 26, 2021 in Hamtramck, Michigan. The state Department of Health and Human Services has begun distributing water filters and bottled water to residents due to elevated levels of lead found in the drinking water due to old and un-maintained water pipes in the city

The EPA and Labor Department are expected to create regional technical assistance hubs to help states speed up the process and the Housing and Urban Development Department will distribute funds to remove lead paint from low-income communities. 

The Biden team is selling the new plan as not only a public health measure but a way to spur new plumbing and pipe-fitting jobs. Vice President Kamala Harris will formally announce the rule at a speech at the AFL-CIO in Washington, DC on Thursday. 

The bipartisan infrastructure law devoted a total of $15 billion to lead pipe removal and another $11 billion in general drinking water funding. 

The White House estimates that $45 billion is needed to dig up every lead pipe in the country.  

For adults, lead exposure can cause cardiovascular issues, reproductive issues and decreased kidney function. For children, it can cause behavior and learning problems, slowed growth, lower IQ or anemia, according to the EPA. 

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