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A lead service line water pipe is exposed by a City of Flint, Michigan, work crew as workers prepare to replace the pipe at a home with high lead levels in drinking water. Photo: Bill Pugliano/Getty Images
Households across the country may be at risk of drinking lead-tainted water as lead pipes age underground and municipalities struggle to balance high replacement costs with a slew of other urgent infrastructure projects.
Why it matters: Exposure to any amount of lead is highly dangerous, especially for children. The public health disasters in Flint, Michigan, and Newark, New Jersey, have dominated headlines, but more than 6 million lead service pipes are buried beneath U.S. cities — and the Government Accountability Office believes that's a low estimate.
What's happening: Water systems are able to chemically control the corrosion of lead pipes to prevent lead from seeping into tap water. But changes in water source or treatment can cause lead to spike.
Where it stands: The recent crises have generated enough public awareness about lead pipes that residents are pressuring utilities to replace lead lines.
The cost of replacing lead pipes typically ranges from $3,000 to $5,000, a cost that's prohibitive for most low-income households. Rebates and tax hikes have been funding options. For example:
The bottom line: Water systems are just one part of the aging infrastructure puzzle that cities are trying to manage, upgrade and replace.
12 states have more than 200,000 lead pipes in their water systems, according to a 2016 national survey by American Water Works Association.
Mapping the population changes across the United States between 1790 and 2017 shows not only the rise and fall of major American cities, but also how uneven the most recent urban revitalization has been.
The big picture: Cities that were major economic hubs during the last century — primarily in the Northeast and Midwest — are struggling to hold on to population. At the same time, some of the most successful areas — New York, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles — have had incredible staying power in the past several decades as they attract jobs and high-skilled workers.
A note about the data: In order to facilitate comparison all the way back to 1790, we are mapping the population of legally defined places, not broader metro areas. (Find more information on that data here.)
In a CityLab analysis, urban expert Richard Florida broke down the fastest- and slowest-growing cities between 2012 and 2017.
The bottom line: While the largest places will undoubtedly maintain their dominance in terms of ability to attract people, the more recent growth occurring in mid-sized cities, as well as in suburbs and exurbs of the biggest cities, is constantly shifting.
Axios reporter Erica Pandey after fracturing her elbow in an e-scooter accident in D.C.
On Sunday, my colleague Erica Pandey fractured her elbow during an accident on a Bird scooter in D.C. Here's her account:
I was riding in a bike lane when I hit the sideview mirror of a parked car and fell.
I'm one of the lucky ones. My accident occurred in D.C., where it is illegal for scooters to go faster than 10 mph. In some California cities, they can go as fast as 15 mph.
Why it matters: Silicon Valley companies with ambitions of revolutionizing transportation are dropping electric scooters and bikes in cities across the globe. The scooters are gaining popularity faster than policymakers can catch up, and emergency rooms around the world are dealing with injuries.
A Bird spokesperson told Axios that the company has worked with riders and cities to promote safety, including adding an in-app tutorial for riders, launching a 100-city tour to collaborate with local officials on policies, and giving away 65,000 free helmets to date.
The bottom line: "It's a new world of different types of mobility, and we don’t really know what the effects are going to be," says Jessica Cicchino, vice president of research at the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety, which is working with GW on a study on scooter injuries. "There do seem to be benefits, but now we have to see what can we do policywise."
Erica will have more on this in her Future newsletter this afternoon. Sign up for Future here.
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios
Schools across the country are cracking down on school lunch debt, and some are getting public and political backlash for "shaming" low-income students who haven't paid their lunch tabs with tactics such as threatening to put them and their siblings in foster care and using collection agencies.
Why it matters: Children from low-income families can qualify for free and reduced-price breakfast and lunch at their schools, which receive federal funds for the meals served, Axios' Marisa Fernandez writes.
The impact: 75% of school districts surveyed nationwide reported unpaid student meal debt at the end of the 2016-2017 school year, according to a 2018 survey by the School Nutrition Association.
What's happening: The USDA found that, in the 2011-2012 school year, nearly half of all school districts took controversial actions to recoup funds.
What to watch: The USDA proposed funding cuts that would include cutting off access to free meals at school for an estimated 500,000 low-income children, per NBC News.
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios
More than 50 cities have fallen prey to ransomware attacks in 2019 so far, with the average paying $36,295 in ransom. As a result, cities are beginning to explore new cybersecurity options, Wire co-founder Alan Duric writes for Axios Expert Voices.
By the numbers: The International City/County Management Association found that roughly 30% of local governments don't know how often their systems are attacked.
What's happening: When a city is attacked, critical services such as tax management and permit approval can be halted as city officials decide whether to pay a ransom or rebuild a system.
What's needed: A cybersecurity policy gaining traction among municipalities is Zero Trust, which operates on the assumption that anything inside or outside of a corporate network including data, devices, systems and users is a security risk.
The gig economy mismatch☝️— Dion Rabouin, Axios
Airbnb pledges $25 million to support affordable housing — Andrew Khouri, LA Times
Climate change: Won or lost by cities? — Oliver Harman, World Economic Forum
How the government could incentivize less driving — Tiffany Chu, Axios Expert Voices
China's own Rust Belt — Erica Pandey, Axios
Trump and California see same homeless problem, but not the same solution — Conor Dougherty, NYT
The Las Vegas Strip. Photo: f11photo/Getting Images
Las Vegas, Orlando, New York, Miami and Chicago top WalletHub's list of the "most fun" American cities, based on recreation, nightlife, parties and entertainment.
My thought bubble: As a teenager, I longed to live in New York City because it looked like it was so much "fun." It wasn't until college that I realized I'd never be able to afford to live there, let alone take advantage of that "fun."
Thanks for reading! See you next week.