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Statement: New White House plan to get the lead out marks key progress for California’s drinking water

Administration-wide effort includes commitment to replace all lead service lines
For Immediate Release

Sacramento -- The White House unveiled a new plan Thursday to prevent lead contamination of drinking water here in California and across the country. The Biden-Harris Lead Pipe and Paint Action Plan features unprecedented federal funding and a commitment by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) “to propose requirements that, along with other actions, would replace all lead service lines as quickly as feasible.” More broadly, the White House plan includes 15 actions across 10 federal agencies, allocations of relevant federal funding, and a cabinet-level partnership to reduce lead in child care centers and schools. 

In response, Jenn Engstrom, State Director of CALPIRG issued the following statement:

“This plan marks an ambitious federal effort to end lead contamination of our drinking water, which is a serious and pervasive threat to childrens’ health here in California”  

Lead contamination is still pervasive in California, and impacting children in schools and childcare centers. 53% of reporting schools tested positive for lead in their drinking water. 

To address this threat, the administration has already secured major funding to replace lead service lines, including $15 billion in the bipartisan infrastructure bill. Now, the EPA is committing to ensure the full replacement of these toxic pipes – a long-overdue and an indispensable step toward securing safe water. We eagerly await the details of the agency’s plan. For example,the EPA should set a deadline of 10 years or less to replace lead service lines, as New Jersey has recently done. Similarly, to stop the widespread contamination of schools’ drinking water, the administration should focus its resources and policies on prevention rather than testing. To further this federal effort, Congress should also approve the nearly $10 billion of additional funds to get the lead out in the Build Back Better package.

“Ensuring safe drinking water will also require action from officials here in California. State officials and school districts should swiftly allocate existing federal recovery funds to prevent lead contamination, as outlined in CALPIRG Education Fund’s recent Get the Lead Out toolkit.”  

"We’ve known for decades that lead is highly toxic for kids yet we allowed this potent neurotoxicant to be used in everything from paint to gasoline, and we have spent decades undoing the damage. We hope California officials will match the Biden administration’s determination to eliminate this health hazard, so our kids have safe drinking water wherever they go to learn and play each day.”

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