New research from the EPA estimates that 9.2 million lead pipelines across the country are responsible for delivering drinking water to homes. Also, with an estimated 1.16 million lead lines in place, Florida has the most of any state. Many people are surprised by this news because manufacturing states like Ohio, Michigan, and Pennsylvania are commonly linked with severe lead plumbing problems. After Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, and New York, Illinois came in second with 1.04 million lead pipes. For the first time, the EPA included a question about the presence of lead pipes in their poll, allowing for a more precise estimate of the total number of pipelines below ground.
The results of the survey will be used by the Biden administration to determine how billions of dollars from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law will be used to find and replace lead pipes in the states that need it most. In the past, a state’s allocation of lead pipe funds was based on the state’s general infrastructure needs, rather than the number of lead pipes it had. The EPA’s main concern regarding lead is its negative impact on children’s brain development, and the agency has set a goal to remove all of the country’s lead water pipes. However, there are concerns that the $15 billion from the infrastructure plan will not be enough to solve the problem.
Michael Regan, the EPA administrator, made the following statement: “Every community deserves safe, clean drinking water.” Thanks to President Biden’s investments in infrastructure, we can safeguard communities from PFAS pollution, improve the quality of America’s potable water, and help achieve the Biden-Harris administration’s objective of replacing all of the country’s lead pipelines. Six billion dollars of this sum comes from the Bipartisan facilities Law and can be used to improve potable water facilities in states, U.S. territories, and tribal communities.
According to a recent poll of 3,500 water providers conducted by the EPA, this nation will need to spend $625 billion in drinking water infrastructure over the next 20 years. The most pressing issue is the replacement of aging, deteriorating, or even lead water pipelines. The lead-in-water disaster in Flint, Michigan, highlighted the fact that aging infrastructure can abruptly pose a serious risk to public health.
While acknowledging his astonishment at Florida’s number, Erik Olson, a health and food expert at the environmental organization Natural Resources Defense Council, commended the EPA for using its poll to send lead pipe money to states that need it most. Olson verified that lead service line counts are not maintained in Florida and provided a guesstimate of around 200,000.
The EPA says that the location of many lead pipes is unknown and states like Florida reported having several water lines made of either an unknown material or of lead. Therefore, the EPA extrapolated data from water providers’ responses to issue state-level estimates. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection declined to comment when reached for comment.
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