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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 Amy Lupica, ODP Staff Writer “Glacier blood,” or “watermelon snow,” is sweeping across the Alps, and researchers are eager to survey the snow to figure out what’s responsible for the mysterious phenomenon—the culprit: algal blooms. A new study has found that the same algae that cause dreaded red tide are now blooming en masse on mountains worldwide. […]
One more of the Trump administration’s rollbacks will meet its demise as EPA Administrator Michael Regan and the Biden administration are planning to reinstate protections for many marshes, streams, and wetlands — expanding again the coverage of the Clean Water Act under the “Waters of the U.S.” or “WOTUS” rule.
Why This Matters: Since the late 1700s, 221 million acres of wetlands have been drained in the U.S. for agricultural use. This development has had severe consequences, including fertilizer and pollution runoff threatening drinking water for millions of people.
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