EPA announces $3 billion for LSL replacements

Courtesy of Cleveland Water.

Last week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced $3 billion from President Joe Biden’s Investing in America agenda to help every state and territory identify and replace lead service lines, preventing exposure to lead in drinking water.

Funded by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and made available through EPA’s Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF), EPA said the action represents another other major step to advance this work and the Administration’s commitment to environmental justice. This funding builds on the Administration’s Lead Pipe and Paint Action Plan and EPA’s Get the Lead Out Initiative.

The agency also said the investment advances Biden’s Justice40 Initiative to ensure that 40% of overall benefits from certain federal investments flow to disadvantaged communities that are marginalized by underinvestment and overburdened by pollution. Lead exposure disproportionately affects communities of color and low-income families, according to EPA. The $9 billion in total funding announced to date through EPA’s Lead Service Line Replacement Drinking Water State Revolving Fund program is expected to replace up to 1.7 million lead pipes nationwide.

“The science is clear, there is no safe level of lead exposure, and the primary source of harmful exposure in drinking water is through lead pipes,” said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan.

Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law invests a $15 billion in total to identify and replace lead service lines. The law mandates that 49% of funds provided through the DWSRF General Supplemental Funding and DWSRF Lead Service Line Replacement Funding must be provided as grants and forgivable loans to disadvantaged communities, a crucial investment for communities that have been underinvested in for too long. EPA projects a national total of 9 million lead services lines across the country, based on data collected from the updated 7th Drinking Water Infrastructure Needs Survey and Assessment. The funding announced this month will be provided specifically for lead service line identification and replacement and will help every state and territory fund projects to remove lead pipes and reduce exposure to lead from drinking water.

The Lead Service Line-specific formula used to allot these funds allows states to receive financial assistance commensurate with their need as soon as possible, furthering public health protection nationwide. The formula and allotments are based on need — meaning that states with more projected lead service lines receive proportionally more funding.

Alongside the recently-announced funding, EPA is also releasing a new memorandum that clarifies how states can use this and other funding to most effectively reduce exposure to lead in drinking water. Additionally, EPA has developed new outreach documents to help water systems educate their customers on drinking water issues, health impacts of lead exposure, service line ownership, and how customers can support the identification of potential lead service lines in their homes.

EPA said the Biden-Harris Administration’s initiative to remove lead pipes has already delivered significant results for families across the nation. Here are some recent project examples:

  • West View Water Authority in Pennsylvania has received $8 million through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to replace 750 lead service lines in underserved areas of the community — primarily in Allegheny County. Of that funding, more than $5.4 million is forgivable, reducing the overall financial burden on ratepayers and the community.
  • In Tucson, Arizona, the city received $6.95 million in Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funds to develop lead service line inventories for their nine public water systems. The city will use this inventory to develop a plan to replace lead service lines in the community and improve drinking water quality for residents — many of whom live in low-income and disadvantaged communities.
  • Located in between Chicago and Milwaukee, the community of Kenosha, Wisconsin has been at the forefront of the state’s efforts to remove 5,000 lead service lines in their community. To accelerate lead service line removal, Kenosha is working with EPA’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law-funded Water TA team to help customers self-inventory their service line material and apply for federal funding to remove and replace lead service lines.
  • The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, located across western North Carolina, has been selected to received support from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law’s lead service line replacement funds to conduct service line inventories and prepare preliminary engineering reports for five of the public water systems on their land.

The recent allotments are based on EPA’s updated 7th Drinking Water Infrastructure Needs Survey and Assessment (DWINSA) including an assessment of newly submitted information. EPA says, to date, it is the best available data collected and assessed on service line materials in the United States. Later this summer, EPA will release an addendum to the 7th DWINSA Report to Congress which will include the updated lead service line projections. EPA anticipates initiating data collection, which will include information on lead service lines, for the 8th DWINSA in 2025.

For more information, including state-by-state allotment of 2024 funding, and a breakdown of EPA’s lead Drinking Water State Revolving Fund, please visit EPA’s Drinking Water website.

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