EDF Health

Biden Announces $3B to Replace Lead Pipes – More Money Going to States with Greatest Need

By Lindsay McCormick, Senior Manager, Safer Chemicals and Roya Alkafaji, Manager, Healthy Communities 

What’s New? 

President Biden recently announced $3 billion in federal funding for lead service line replacement. In the third year of this historic $15 billion investment through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to replace harmful lead pipes across the U.S., there is an effort to shift where the money is going to better reflect states’ needs. While many saw no or minimal change, others – like Texas, and Minnesota – saw major changes to their funding allotments. 

Why It Matters 

An estimated 9 million homes and businesses in the U.S. still receive their drinking water through harmful lead pipes. To make the best use of the federal funds aimed at protecting public health, it is critical that the money flows to the states with the greatest need, based on their estimated number of lead service lines without delay.  

EPA’s 7th Drinking Water Infrastructure Needs Survey and Assessment (DWINSA), which is the best current estimate of lead service lines across the nation, is the driver for FY23 and FY24 funding allotments. To best reflect the latest information, EPA allowed states and water utilities to submit a “one-time update” to service line information in the fall 2023, thus taking advantage of utilities’ ongoing efforts to inventory their service lines. The goal, which was partially achieved, was to more accurately allocate the funding based on need. 

What Changed 

EPA reported that 67% of water systems provided a response to the DWINSA update. While we do not know the magnitude of the changes to the state-level lead service line projections as EPA has not yet made this information public *, we do know how it has impacted the funding allotments. 

This year, Illinois received the most funding ($241 million), followed by Florida ($229 million), and Ohio ($184 million). Twenty-six states received the minimum allotment of $28.7 million. 

Funding allotment changes ranged from minimal to major: 

  • For 29 states, allotments remained the same or changes were minimal compared with last year.  
  • Fourteen states received more funding, with Minnesota having the greatest increase (128%). 
  • Nine received less funding, with Texas having the largest decrease (80%). 

We created a map to visualize the most impactful changes from the FY24 funding allotments, compared with FY23. 

Interactive map helps users visualize the most impactful changes from the FY24 funding allotments, compared with FY23. 

Explore the interactive map to learn more about the BIL LSLR funding allotment changes

Our Take 

Last year, EDF analyzed the data behind the 7th DWINSA and found flaws in three major areas affecting Texas, New York and Florida. EPA’s fall 2023 one-time update to the DWINSA seems to have corrected two of the three issues we highlighted: 

  • Texas: Due to an apparent major data entry error in the original survey that inflated the state’s number of lead service lines, Texas received $146 million, the fifth largest allotment, in 2023. This year, the allotment decreased by 80% to $28.7 million. This freed up funds to be distributed to other states with greater need.  
  • New York: New York saw a 14% increase in its funding this year. New York City, home to over 100,000 lead service lines, did not participate in the original DWINSA, which we suspect dampened the state’s FY23 allotment by drastically underestimating the state’s total lead service lines. New York City’s lead service line estimate is reflected in the fall 2023 one-time update. We do not know with certainty whether New York’s increased FY24 funding can be attributed to New York City’s participation.  
  • Florida: Florida remained unwavering near the top of the list of states receiving the largest share of funding – over $228 million in FY24. We continue to question whether the state’s allotment matches the true need and are eager to understand how Florida has retained such a large share of the funding without clear evidence of the presence of lead service lines in the state. Large utilities, such as JEA (serving Jacksonville), are just beginning to inventory their lead service lines for the October 2024 Lead and Copper Rule deadline. We’ll keep an eye on the state’s Project Priority List to see how the money is being used.  

Next Steps 

When EPA released the initial DWINSA results in April 2023, we described how the new formula would positively impact funding allotments for lead service line replacement needs by state. It is now critical that EPA make the formula available for replication, as requested by State Revolving Fund administrators. This step would enable state policymakers and the public to better understand how funding decisions are made. EPA should also promptly release the state-level LSL projections from the one-time update, which drove the recent changes in funding amounts.  

EDF will continue to monitor how these resources are allocated to ensure these hard-fought funds go towards ensuring everyone has access to safer drinking water. Water utilities should aggressively pursue funding and start replacing lead service lines now while this historic funding is available. 

Go Deeper 

Read EPA’s press statement and memo on the funding allotments.  

*Updated 5/21/24: Since the publication of this blog, EPA published the state-level service line data from the updated DWINSA.

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Denver Water proves its Lead Reduction Program is a national model

Tom Neltner, Senior Director, Safer Chemicals and Lindsay McCormick, Senior Manager, Safer Chemicals

What’s New: After an extensive review process, EPA approved Denver Water’s request to extend the variance to allow the utility to administer their Lead Reduction Program for the full 15-year term. EPA touts Denver Water’s Lead Reduction Program as an “innovative and aggressive approach” to lead service line replacement (LSL) in a letter approving the variance.

Denver Water will continue to:

  • replace all lead service lines at no cost to homeowners,
  • provide residents with filters to help reduce their exposure in the short-term, and
  • use an alternative approach to water treatment that still ensures effective corrosion control.

We applaud their emphasis on environmental justice and commitment to ensure that the program continues to prioritize disproportionately impacted neighborhoods – and EPA’s new requirement to track this progress.

This fall, we visited Denver Water’s field operations to see for ourselves how it is successfully replacing more than 4,500 lines per year. We were impressed by what we saw, and sent a letter to EPA’s Regional Administrator expressing our full support for Denver Water’s March 2022 request to continue their program. Read More »

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New Study Highlights Lead in Water at Child Care Facilities and Holes in Current EPA Rule

Lindsay McCormick, Program Manager

This month, EDF published an article along with collaborators from Auburn University and Mississippi State University, based on a pilot we conducted in partnership with local organizations[1] to comprehensively test and remediate lead in water at 11 child care facilities in Illinois, Michigan, Mississippi and Ohio.

The study found that while over 75% of first draw samples contained lead levels under the 1 ppb level recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics, 10 of 11 child care facilities produced at least one sample above that level. We fixed problems at the facilities, including replacing 26 contaminated fixtures and two lead service lines. Read More »

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At all costs: Failings of Trump EPA’s proposed TSCA fee rule

Lindsay McCormick, Program Manager and Richard Denison, Ph.D., Lead Senior Scientist

When Congress reformed the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) in 2016, it authorized EPA to require companies to pay fees to help defray the agency’s costs of administering this extensive new law.  EPA finalized the first “fee rule” in 2018 to establish the payment framework.  Under TSCA, EPA is to adjust the fees every three years both to account for inflation and to ensure it is recouping the authorized portion of agency costs to implement the law.

Therefore, developing an accurate estimate of the agency’s costs to implement TSCA is critical.  Not only does this provide the baseline by which to establish industry fees (as EPA is to set the fees so as to recoup 25% of its program costs), but it should serve as a north star to identify the true resource needs to lawfully implement TSCA.

Recent reports by the Government Accountability Office and EPA’s Office of Inspector General found that EPA’s ability to assess and manage chemicals regressed over recent years due to lack of workforce or workload planning to ensure the agency can carry out its duties.  Both reports recognize the greatly increased scope of work under amended TSCA, and EPA’s failure to translate that into additional staff and resource needs.  Establishing a robust, accurate budget for administering TSCA is the first step to rectifying this problem.

Despite the alarm bells rung by these two watchdogs, the Trump EPA’s proposed revised fee rule seems to have lost sight of Congress’ purpose in expanding EPA’s fee authority.  The proposed rule invokes a new purpose entirely divorced from TSCA: to reduce asserted burdens on industry – without regard to the impacts that will have on EPA’s ability to implement the law or on ensuring health and environmental protection from chemical exposures.  As a result, EPA underestimated its costs and proposed fees such that, if finalized, would push an undue portion of its costs onto the taxpayer.

Below we summarize the major concerns about the fee rule proposal that we detailed in our comments submitted to the agency late last month. Read More »

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In major step, Chicago announces lead pipe replacement plan – but could it widen the equity gap?

Lindsay McCormick, Program Manager

In September, Chicago took an important – albeit modest – step towards tackling its colossal number of lead service lines (LSLs) – the lead pipes providing drinking water from the main under the street to homes.

With an estimated 389,900 LSLs, Chicago has more than two times as many LSLs as any other city in the country. In fact, Chicago city code mandated their installation until 1986, when Congress banned it.  Since then, the city has largely turned a blind eye to the problem of existing lead pipes – that is, until now.

On September 10th, Mayor Lightfoot announced the city’s new Lead Service Line Replacement Program, acknowledging the problem and taking initial steps towards fully replacing its lead pipes.  While the starting investment is $19 million, Lightfoot estimates the full cost of the program, including restoration and bringing underground sewerage and water infrastructure up to code, at $8.5 billion. The city currently does not yet have the funds – or a plan – to fully cover the cost. Chicago’s move comes just weeks before the Environmental Protection Agency is slated to release its final revisions to the Lead and Copper Rule.  Read More »

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Promising proposal for addressing lead in schools and licensed child care – but gaps remain

Lindsay McCormick, Program Manager, and Tom Neltner, J.D., Chemicals Policy Director 

See all blogs in our LCR series.

Update: On February 5, 2020, we submitted comments to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on its proposal. 

Through its proposed revisions to the Lead and Copper Rule (LCR) under the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA), EPA made the unprecedented move of proposing to require community water systems (CWSs) to test for lead in water at all schools and licensed child care facilities constructed prior to 2014. The current rule only requires testing if the facility is itself a regulated water system (e.g., uses own private well). While EDF fully supports testing in these facilities, we are concerned that EPA has overlooked several major issues, especially in the child care context.

Based on our experience – including a pilot project to test and remediate lead in 11 child care facilities, a training program for child care providers in Illinois, and monitoring of state child care testing requirements across the country – we believe that addressing lead in child care facilities is an important opportunity to improve public health. Though schools are also critical, we’ve focused on child care facilities as they present a major gap due to a number of reasons. First, children under the age of six are more susceptible to the harmful effects of lead – and those at the highest risk are infants who are fed formula reconstituted with tap water. Second, child care, especially home-based facilities, are often smaller operations than schools, and therefore more likely to have a lead service line. Finally, child care facilities often lack robust facility support and public accountability that schools may have.

From our background on this issue, we have identified three key flaws with EPA’s proposal. Specifically, it:

  1. Ignores lead service lines,
  2. Relies on inadequate sampling, and
  3. Does not provide sufficient support for remediation.

We also are concerned that the result of this proposed rule may sound like “one hand clapping.” If state licensing agencies and local health departments are not requiring or promoting testing, child care facilities are unlikely to cooperate, making it more difficult for CWSs to comply with the requirement. For this requirement to have greatest effect, CWSs need the support and participation of all parties involved.

This blog will provide an overview of EPA’s proposed requirement and an analysis of each of the key issues. Read More »

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