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Press Release

Reps. Cuellar and Smith Introduce ‘Get the Lead Out’ Act to Fund $14 Billion for Access to Safe, Drinking Water

Washington | Charlotte Laracy, DC Press Secretary (202-226-1583); Alexis Torres, District Press Secretary (956-286-6007), August 3, 2020

Washington, D.C. - Congressmen Henry Cuellar (TX-28) and Chris Smith (NJ-04) work to alleviate the threat of lead in drinking water systems across the United States by introducing the Get the Lead Out Act. This bill would authorize $14 billion over two years and require every utility in America to develop a plan to identify and remove lead pipes that threaten residents, especially children, from the dangers of lead.

“No community should have to worry that their drinking water is tainted with lead. Any amount of lead in drinking water can have serious developmental and health impacts for children,” said Congressman Cuellar.  “This bipartisan legislation will help utility companies invest in critical infrastructure plans and remove dangerous chemicals from our communities’ water.  I am committed to protecting children and families in South Texas by limiting their exposure to lead and making sure they have access to safe drinking water. I want to thank Congressman Smith for his leadership on this issue.”

“For every family and every household, clean drinking water is an essential necessity of everyday living,” said Congressman Smith. “People need to know the water from the kitchen tap they drink or cook with is clean and safe for themselves and their families. Lead service line replacement is needed to give them that peace of mind. Local, state governments and federal government must work together to make that a reality. This bill will help ‘get the lead out’ of drinking water in towns like Trenton and Hamilton in my district, and across America. Rep. Cuellar and I are teaming up to bring a bipartisan plan to tackle a danger to children, who are especially vulnerable to lead.”

Smith continued, “Congress must act on this critical legislation that’s long overdue and can make drinking water safer for generations of Americans.”

‘Get the Lead Out’ Act

The Get the Lead Out Act directs all community water systems across the U.S. to develop a plan to inventory and replace all lead service lines (LSLs) in their system within 10 years. The plan must be submitted to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for approval.

To help community water systems afford these necessary upgrades, this bill authorizes nearly $14 billion over two years with $13 billion targeted directly to the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF). The DWSRF is a federal-state partnership fund and a main source of funding that allows states to receive money from EPA and in turn offer low interest loans—and even forgivable loans—to local water systems to achieve healthy drinking water.

The bill also provides $180 million for the Lead Reduction Grant Program at the EPA, a competitive grant program for schools, states, municipalities, tribal water systems and community water systems. Once awarded, these funds can be used for corrosion control and replacing lead service lines as well.

Harmful Impact of Lead Exposure

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), exposure to lead can seriously harm a child’s health, including damage to the brain and nervous system, slowed growth and development, learning and behavior problems, and hearing and speech problems. No safe blood lead level in children has been identified. CDC estimates show that about half a million children between the ages of 1 and 5 living in the U.S. have an elevated level of lead in their blood.