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Tonko Introduces Major Drinking Water Legislation

Tonko’s AQUA Act will replace millions of lead components in U.S. schools & local drinking water systems, prevent water shut-offs for struggling households

  • Rep. Paul Tonko

WASHINGTON—Congressman Paul D. Tonko, Chair of the Energy & Commerce Subcommittee on Environment & Climate Change and one of the few engineers in Congress, introduced H.R. 3291, the AQUA Act, legislation he authored to fix America’s failing drinking water systems. Tonko’s newly-introduced bill provides needed federal investments to local communities to address critical water infrastructure needs, delivers a lifeline to beleaguered water utilities in return for a commitment to temporarily halt all water shutoffs for struggling customers, and replaces every one of the millions of lead service lines still in use—400,000 of which remain in schools and childcare facilities.

“As Americans, we should be able to expect that the drinking water that comes out of our taps is clean and will not make us or our families sick,” Congressman Tonko said. “Sadly, millions of Americans are being exposed every day to dangerous chemicals and other contaminants in their drinking water as a result of unchecked pollution and crumbling, outdated water systems. Most local communities don’t have the resources to fix this infrastructure and many are forced to take desperate measures when these systems inevitably collapse. That all ends the day my AQUA Act is signed into law. This bill delivers real, meaningful federal dollars to eliminate lead pipes and other components once and for all. It tackles devastating PFAS contamination in our drinking water and helps local communities get their water systems onto more sustainable footing. As we continue working to rebuild America, fixing and improving our water infrastructure will be one of the keys to creating a strong, resilient, and just economy for all.”

Tonko’s AQUA Act legislation builds on previous drinking water provisions Tonko fought to enact, including the last reauthorization of the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (SRF) beginning in FY2019 and a provision establishing a $5 million per year grant program to provide assistance to schools and childcare centers with drinking water fountains containing lead components.

Tonko has worked in Congress for years to ensure Americans have access to safe drinking water. He spearheaded the House advance of major PFAS legislation to reduce human and environmental exposure to dangerous per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), improve protections for first responders, and provide grants to clean up contaminated water systems.

The AQUA Act of 2021:

  • Invests $105 billion over 10 years for our nation's water systems, including:
    • $53 billion for the Drinking Water SRF
    • $45 billion to fully replace every lead service line
    • $5 billion to provide assistance to systems with PFAS contamination
  • Requires EPA to set national standards for PFAS, 1,4-dioxane, and microcystin toxin, and makes it easier for EPA to set standards in the future
  • Authorizes $4 billion emergency relief program to provide forgiveness for utility customers facing debts and unpaid fees since March 1, 2020

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