Dec 16, 2021 - Politics & Policy

U.S. plans to replace all lead pipes over next decade

Utility workers installing a new pipe in Oakland, California, in April 2021.

Utility workers installing a new pipe in Oakland, California, in April 2021. Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

The Biden administration unveiled plans Thursday to replace all lead water pipelines over the next decade.

Why it matters: The White House estimated that up to 10 million households connect to water through lead pipes and service lines and 400,000 schools and child care centers are at risk of exposure to lead in their water. Exposure can cause multiple adverse health effects, including brain and nervous system damage.

By the numbers: At least $15 billion of funding for the replacement plan comes from the bipartisan infrastructure signed into law last month.

  • The Build Back Better Act, which has yet to pass Congress, allocates at least $9 billion to lead pipe replacements. Another $5 billion in that act would go toward removing lead-based paint, lead faucets and fixtures.

What they're saying: "Millions of people in our country, many of them children, are exposed to lead every day," Vice President Kamala Harris said in a speech Thursday.

  • "In one of the most advanced nations in the world, this is happening in our country," Harris added. "As a result, today more than half of the children under the age of six are at risk of lead exposure."

The big picture: The Environmental Protection Agency announced Thursday it will strengthen drinking water regulations to protect communities from lead exposure and encourage lead pipe replacements.

  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it will step up efforts to test blood lead levels in children.

Go deeper: CDC lowers threshold for lead poisoning in children

Editor's note: This story has been updated with remarks from Harris.

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