House Passes Legislation to Help Remove Millions of Lead Drinking Water Pipes

WASHINGTON – The House passed legislation today to fund the replacement of up to 10 million lead water distribution pipes across the country.

An amendment to the Moving Forward Act (HR2) sponsored by Michigan Democrats Rashida Tlaib, Dan Kildee and Elissa Slotkin, along with representatives David Cicilline (D-RI) and Gwen Moore (D-WI) was granted $ 4.5 billion annually for five years to cover the cost of fully replacing lead service lines across the country. Disadvantaged, low-income communities and environmental justice communities suffering from disproportionate threats to environmental health would receive funding priority.

A letter signed by over 100 community organizations across the country urged Congress to adopt this important amendment.

The following is a statement from leaders in communities affected by unsafe drinking water and Erik D. Olson, Senior Strategic Director for Health at NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council):

“This legislation is especially important now when disadvantaged communities are faced with so many challenges. By addressing a major problem with our infrastructure – the need for a full pipeline replacement – it will help us ensure a basic human right: clean water” said Yvette Jordan, a Newark, New Jersey public school teacher and chair of the Newark Education Workers Caucuswho are suing Newark City and New Jersey State officials for lead in drinking water.

“Michigan needs federal infrastructure funds and jobs to ensure our water is lead-free without exacerbating the water affordability crisis. In Detroit alone there are an estimated 125,000 pipes that contain dangerous lead. Tlaib, Kildee and Slotkin’s amendment will be an important step in saving future generations from the health effects of lead in drinking water and reducing the affordability burden, ”he said Sylvia Orduño, a community organizer for the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization and the People’s Water Board Coalition.

“Leadwater pipes are a scourge from another century that continues to damage children’s brains and rob them of the potential to lead their best possible lives. We owe it to the next generation and families who expect clean water from their taps to stop contaminating drinking water with poison, ”he said Erik D. Olson, senior strategic director of health for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). “The sponsors of the change should be commended for recognizing this ongoing disaster, and members who voted deserve credit for taking steps to prevent the Flint Water tragedy from recurring in another community “said Olson.


In each state, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, there are still 6 to 10 million lead utilities (the pipes that run from the water main on the street to people’s homes), serving up to 22 million Americans . An analysis by Dr. Kristi Pullen Fedinick of NRDC found tens of millions of Americans are being fed by water systems that violate the Environmental Protection Agency’s regulations to reduce lead levels in drinking water.

Drinking water from these sometimes centuries-old pipes is like drinking from a lead straw. The only way to ensure that lead contaminants don’t get into tap water from these pipes is to pull them out of the ground and replace them. While this is not cheap, it is doable and very important for protecting children’s health. The American Academy of Pediatrics, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and many others advise that lead exposure is not known to be safe. Experts have therefore long been pushing for lead levels in drinking water to be reduced.

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NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) is an international non-profit environmental organization with more than 3 million members and online activists. Since 1970 our lawyers, scientists and other environmental specialists have been committed to protecting natural resources, public health and the environment of the world. NRDC has offices in New York, Washington, DC, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Bozeman, MT, and Beijing. Visit us at and follow us on Twitter @NRDC.

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