New EPA Program Seeks to Accelerate Lead Pipe Replacement Efforts
Federal regulators have announced a new program funded by the Biden-Harris Administration, which will help replace millions of pipes that still carry lead contaminated drinking water to U.S. homes, as part of a continuing effort to address lead poisoning risks nationwide.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a press release on November 7, announcing the Get the Lead Out (GLO) Initiative; a new program aimed to accelerate the process of identifying, removing, and replacing toxic lead water pipes to ensure every U.S. community receives safe, lead-free drinking water.
About 9.2 million water pipes still contain the toxic heavy metal and carry lead tainted drinking water to millions of homes throughout the country, according to the EPA. Officials indicate they are most commonly found in older homes, disproportionally impacting more than 200 underserved communities, who have limited or no access to the resources and funding they need to replace the dangerous pipes.
Get The Lead Out (GLO) Initiative
Funded through the administration’s “Bipartisan Infrastructure Law,” which includes a $50 billion water and wastewater infrastructure investment, the plan is part of the “Investing in America” agenda, which seeks to remove 100% of all lead water pipes in the country within the next decade.
The EPA claims the GLO Initiative will assist the agency in developing educational tools to share lead exposure information, identifying community needs to create a customized funding plan, providing a roadmap of affected pipes for each municipality, and assist disadvantaged communities in getting the funding they need to replace all lead pipes.
In addition, the EPA will also share tools, case studies, and best practices to other federal and state programs, water system managers, and other community officials to share information and best practices to handle lead-laced pipes.
To request assistance from GLO Initiative, communities can complete the request form online at https://www.epa.gov/water-infrastructure/forms/water-technical-assistance-request-form.
Lead Exposure Risks
Exposure to toxic lead is a known health hazard, and can cause severe or long-term health consequences, including nervous system injuries, permanent brain damage, seizures, developmental disabilities, coma, and even death. Lead poisoning is especially dangerous for children, who are still developing, and often do not show immediate signs or symptoms of lead exposure.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) determined that there is no safe level of lead exposure, especially for children. Research has shown that any exposure to lead during childhood, even at low levels, can impact the brain’s structural integrity, lower cognitive functioning, and reduce IQ scores.
The CDC indicates more than half a million children in the U.S. have some level of lead in their blood, putting them at risk of developing adverse health effects later in life.
Federal officials have taken on a new urgency in dealing with lead in U.S. drinking water, following the 2014 Flint water crisis, which exposed thousands of children from Flint, Michigan to high levels of lead, after the city switched its water supply source from Detroit’s city water system to the Flint River. A number of water contamination lawsuits were filed by families of children, alleging they sustained permanent developmental injuries or other problems after exposure to elevated lead levels, which resulted in a $600 million settlement in 2020.
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