First bucket of infrastructure act funds heads to states for water, lead pipe remediation

Diving letter:

  • The first major donation of funds from $ 1.2 trillion bill for infrastructure investment and jobs, which was signed last month, will travel to states, tribes and U.S. territories in 2022, the Biden government announced on December 2. The EPA will distribute $ 7.4 billion to rehabilitate ailing water infrastructure and lead pipes.
  • The funding is part of the law’s $ 50 billion investment in water infrastructure, which will be spread over a five-year period. Of the initial distribution of the funds, $ 2.9 billion will be used to replace lead pipes and utility lines, and $ 866 million will be used to combat Forever Chemicals and other drinking water contaminants.
  • EPO Administrator Michael Regan said NBC that the funding represents the “largest single investment in water infrastructure” in the history of the federal government. Experts say the amount may not be enough to supply all of the country’s lead pipes, but it should still have a significant impact.

Dive Insight:

Lead pipes and plumbing were banned nationwide in 1986, but lead contamination in water continues to affect millions of homes, businesses and schools. It’s been linked to a variety of health problems, including irreversible organ and cognitive damage, and children in particular are at risk, according to the EPA. Earlier this year, President Joe Biden promised to replace every lead pipe in the country.

“It will create jobs that replace lead and lead water pipes so every American, every child can drink clean water, improve their health, and have plumbers and plumbers working. How long have we been talking about it? It’s a gigantic problem.” Biden said in remarks after the House of Representatives passed the Infrastructure Act.

There are up to 10 million lead service lines in the United States and the average cost to replace them is $ 4,700 per line. according to a 2019 EPA report. However, the exact number of lead pipes is uncertain as many states are not tracking them, according to the nonprofit environmental council Natural Resources Defense, which puts the number at 12 million. While lead pipes persist in every state, data from NRDC shows that the problem is most common in the Midwest.

Most of the funds from the Infrastructure Act are distributed to states that are responsible for deciding on the projects to be financed and their implementation. Further amounts are paid out through federal grants for specific projects. Nearly $ 44 billion of the $ 50 billion water project will flow through government revolving funds created to provide low-interest loans to cities, counties and utilities for investments in water and wastewater infrastructure.

A historic, albeit inadequate, investment

The infrastructure package includes a total of $ 15 billion to replace lead pipes and an additional $ 10 billion to deal with drinking water pollution. A senior Biden administration official said the bill also provides $ 23.4 billion in government revolving funds to be used for main service line exchange projects. according to The News & Observer.

While the federal government cannot dictate how most of these funds will be spent, the EPA urges state and local politicians to prioritize projects in historically underserved communities that face particularly acute challenges in accessing clean water.

The Biden government originally proposed allocating $ 45 billion to clean up all of the country’s lead pipes and utilities, which water experts believe was a realistic amount for mapping and removal. Final funding, while only a third of that amount, is the federal government’s most significant investment to date to address this issue.

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