The version of President Biden's infrastructure spending plan that Republicans and Democrats agreed to last week includes replacing every lead pipe in the nation. A White House memo said the legislation "will replace 100% of the nation's lead pipes and service lines," and White House press secretary Jen Psaki echoed that, the Hill reports. The bipartisan plan has $55 billion for "water infrastructure"; an earlier version had specified $45 billion for pulling out lead pipes. An earlier GOP plan had no money set aside for addressing lead pipes, per Michigan Radio. The project "will put Americans to work," Psaki said Monday. The city of Flint suffered deaths and illnesses after its water was poisoned by lead starting in 2014.
Lead pipes still carry water for 400,000 schools and child care centers and 6 million to 10 million homes, the White House estimates. The use of lead in plumbing systems is prohibited now, per the AP, but lines run before the rule changes often are still in place. There's no amount of lead that's safe to ingest, and it's particularly harmful to children, in whom it can inhibit growth and cause behavioral and learning difficulties. Other worrisome sources include lead-based paint and soil that absorbed lead from industrial sources, such as leaded gasoline. The money for the project would be doled out by the EPA, state and local governments, and public water systems. (Read more infrastructure stories.)