WASHINGTON— Representatives Paul Tonko (NY-20), Jan Schakowsky (IL-9), Daniel T. Kildee (MI-5), Gwen Moore (D-MI-4) and Henry Cuellar (TX-28) led a group of more than 100 members in the House of Representatives today on a letter calling for Congressional leadership to prioritize funding to remove ALL of America’s estimated 10 million lead drinking water service lines and components currently in use as part of any major infrastructure legislation moving through the chamber. Many lead pipelines continue to serve schools according a GAO report that found more than 1/3 of school districts that tested for lead found elevated levels in drinking water.
“There is no safe level of lead, and the dangers are greatest for our children,” the letter reads. “Children experiencing lead exposure will likely suffer lifelong consequences. Sadly, despite the well-established dangers of lead, and numerous tragic examples showing lead service lines contaminating the water they carry, these components are still commonly found in water systems…and often disproportionately threaten low-income communities and communities of color.”
Tonko has worked in Congress for years to ensure Americans have access to safe drinking water. He introduced his new Assistance, Quality, and Affordability (AQUA) Act earlier this year, which would invest $45 billion over 10 years to remove every one of the millions of operating lead service lines. That bill was included in major infrastructure package, the INVEST in America Act, passed out of the House this month.
The letter continues, “The scope and gravity of this problem demands an immediate and comprehensive national response. As you continue to lead efforts to enact funding that invests in our nation’s infrastructure, we respectfully ask that $45 billion be included and fully funded to remove lead service lines.”
The letter follows recent calls for funding lead service line replacements by the Natural Resources Defense Council and United Association of Union Plumbers and Pipefitters, and several environmental and public health organizations.
“Too many communities, especially low-wealth communities and communities of color, have to worry if the water coming out of their tap is poisoning their families with toxic lead,” said Madeleine Foote, Deputy Legislative Director at the League of Conservation Voters. “Access to clean, safe drinking water should not be determined by someone’s race, zip code, or income; and with Congress poised to make significant investments in our infrastructure, now is the time to finally replace all of these dangerous lead pipes. We are incredibly grateful to Representatives Tonko, Schakowsky, Kildee, Moore, and Cuellar for their leadership and to all the members of the House who are fighting to provide the full $45 billion necessary to eliminate the more than 10 million lead service lines across the country. We urge Congress to deliver this full funding and protect our children and communities from toxic lead, once and for all.”
Tom Neltner, Chemicals Policy Director of the Environmental Defense Fund: “Across the country, too many families in too many communities still get their drinking water from lead pipes. Fully replacing all lead service lines will reduce lead exposure and protect people’s health while also creating jobs and upgrading the nation’s infrastructure. It’s time to fully fund lead service line replacement as a key infrastructure priority.”
Joan Matthews, Interim Senior Director for Water Initiatives and Senior Attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council: “No child should drink water from a lead straw, but for millions of children and their families, there’s lead in every sip of water. We can and must stop this threat to our health and our future by removing every lead pipe from the ground. Representatives Tonko, Schakowsky, Kildee, Moore, and Cuellar are taking on the important work that Congress began over 30 years ago, when new lead pipes were banned. It’s time for Congress to get the job done by funding $45 billion dollars to end the shameful history of leaving children to drink lead-contaminated drinking water.”
The letter was signed by the following Members of Congress: Colin Z. Allred, Cynthia Axne, Nanette Diaz Barragán, Earl Blumenauer, Lisa Blunt Rochester, Suzanne Bonamici, Jamaal Bowman, Ed.D., Brendan F. Boyle, Julia Brownley, Cori Bush, Cheri Bustos, Salud O. Carbajal, Tony Cárdenas, André Carson, Sean Casten, David N. Cicilline, Yvette D. Clarke, Steve Cohen, Gerald E. Connolly, Angie Craig, Henry Cuellar, Danny K. Davis, Madeleine Dean, Diana DeGette, Suzan K. DelBene, Mark DeSaulnier, Debbie Dingell, Lloyd Doggett, Michael F. Doyle, Adriano Espaillat, Bill Foster, Ruben Gallego, Jesús G. "Chuy" García, Vincente Gonzalez, Al Green, Raúl M. Grijalva, Jahana Hayes, Brian Higgins, Jared Huffman, Pramila Jayapal, Robin L. Kelly, Ro Khanna, Daniel T. Kildee, Derek Kilmer, Raja Krishnamoorthi, Brenda L. Lawrence, Barbara Lee, Tom Malinowski, Carolyn B. Maloney, Kathy E. Manning, Doris O. Matsui, A. Donald McEachin, James P. McGovern, Jerry McNerney, Gregory W. Meeks, Grace Meng, Gwen Moore, Joseph D. Morelle, Jerrold Nadler, Grace F. Napolitano, Marie Newman, Donald Norcross, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Tom O'Halleran, Donald M. Payne, Jr., Mark Pocan, Ayanna Pressley, Mike Quigley, Jamie Raskin, Kathleen M. Rice, Deborah K. Ross, Lucille Roybal-Allard, C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger, Bobby L. Rush, Tim Ryan, John P. Sarbanes, Mary Gay Scanlon, Jan Schakowsky, Bradley Scott Schneider, Robert C. “Bobby” Scott, David Scott, Mikie Sherrill, Albio Sires, Elissa Slotkin, Adam Smith, Darren Soto, Abigail D. Spanberger, Melanie Ann Stansbury, Haley M. Stevens, Marilyn Strickland, Thomas R. Suozzi, Rashida Tlaib, Paul D. Tonko, Norma J. Torres, Ritchie Torres, Lori Trahan, Lauren Underwood, Juan Vargas, Nydia M. Velázquez, Maxine Waters, Bonnie Watson Coleman, Peter Welch, Susan Wild, Frederica S. Wilson
Full text of the letter:
The Honorable Nancy Pelosi
Speaker of the House
1236 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
Dear Speaker Pelosi:
Thank you for your commitment to safeguard our public health and our environment by ensuring that every community has safe, clean drinking water. We respectfully ask that funding for full replacement of all lead service lines across the country as well as substantial water infrastructure investments be included in an infrastructure agreement at the earliest opportunity.
The science is clear on this issue, and the stakes are high. There is no safe level of lead, and the dangers are greatest for our children. Children experiencing lead exposure will likely suffer lifelong consequences. Sadly, despite the well-established dangers of lead, and numerous tragic examples showing lead service lines contaminating the water they carry, these components are still commonly found in water systems. EPA has estimated that up to 10 million of these lines are currently in use. These lines are found in every state and often disproportionately threaten low-income communities and communities of color.
The scope and gravity of this problem demands an immediate and comprehensive national response. President Biden’s American Jobs Plan has called for $45 billion for lead service line replacements, and H.R. 3684, the INVEST in America Act, which recently passed the House, authorized $45 billion over 10 years for removal of these dangerous lines. Similarly, the fact sheet that accompanied the Senate’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework stated the agreement would “eliminate the nation’s lead service lines and pipes.” This funding must be designed to provide for full replacement of all lead lines, prioritize low-income communities, and prohibit dangerous partial replacements. Such a push to replace lead service lines, along with additional substantial water infrastructure investments, will not only safeguard our health and our environment, it will also provide family-sustaining jobs now while reducing exposure to lead for generations into the future.
We serve geographically, economically, and culturally diverse districts, but we share a sense of duty to care for and protect our constituents from preventable tragedies and known health hazards. Lead service line replacement is a top infrastructure, environmental, and equity priority and must be included in any infrastructure legislation considered for House passage. As you continue to lead efforts to enact funding that invests in our nation’s infrastructure, we respectfully ask that $45 billion be included and fully funded to remove lead service lines.