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Why this Matters: Lead pipes predominantly impact low-income, nonwhite communities across the nation — they are a major environmental justice flashpoint. Biden told Congress last month that these lead pipes are “a clear and present danger to our children’s health.” Biden’s measure that addresses the removal of lead pipes is one of the most popular parts of his $2.3 trillion infrastructure proposal — a CBS News poll showed 85 percent approval. This would help alleviate a major environmental justice concern and regain Americans’ trust in their municipal water systems.
The initial standard, written in 1991 and ratified under the H.W. Bush administration, required 90% of homes tested to have lead levels below 15 parts per million. The Trump administration changed the rule, lowering the “trigger level” to 10 parts per billion and ensuring that utilities test water from homes with lead service lines. But Trump extended the deadline for utilities to replace these lead water lines from 14 to 33 years. This left millions of Americans with contaminated tap water, putting young children especially at risk of lead poisoning and irreversible brain damage.
The good news is that the bill that improves this water infrastructure has bipartisan support. The Senate voted 89 to 2 to spend $35 billion on fixing America’s water systems. But there is still room to improve, as Biden initially advocated for setting aside $111 billion to mend treatment plants and service lines. He emphasized that this could help “create thousands and thousands of good-paying jobs” for plumbers and pipefitters.
But regaining the public’s trust after years of neglecting their unsafe drinking water will be difficult. Wayne Vradenburgh, head of the local water department in Newburgh, NY — a town where a quarter of the city’s 28,000 residents live in poverty, many in buildings with lead pipes — emphasized that residents no longer believe in the safety of tap water. “We lost the trust of the public,” he told the Washington Post. “You can’t put a money value to that.”
By Ashira Morris, ODP Staff Writer For decades, uranium mining has contaminated the Navajo Nation, causing higher cancer rates and water pollution. Even though the health risks and environmental harms of uranium mining are well-established, new operations continue to move forward. One local group, the Eastern Navajo Diné Against Uranium Mining (ENDAUM) hasn’t found a […]
By Natasha Lasky, ODP Staff Writer California Governor Gavin Newsom announced that he would extend the drought emergency statewide and issued an executive order to have residents conserve water. As part of this effort, eight new counties were added to the state of emergency, and authorized the State Water Resources Control Board was authorized to […]
By Elizabeth Love, ODP Contributing Writer Authorities in the Canadian Arctic territory Nunavut, announced a state of emergency this week due to a possible contamination event affecting the City of Iqaluit’s water supply. Tests were performed after residents reported the smell of gasoline coming from their tap water, but they came back clean. However, […]
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