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  • Samantha Winters

Streamline: The US Government Voted to Mitigate Lead Poisoning

In the United States, there are currently 6 million lead pipelines. Each of these lines poses a multitude of problems, especially lead poisoning. The pipes are used to transport Water, but is this helpful if our Water is undrinkable? Cities around the country, such as Washington DC, Chicago, and Flint, have all been plagued with Water contamination. With the recent spread of knowledge surrounding this issue, the American people have had enough. In recent years, we have seen a public outcry to resolve this issue, and now there may be a light at the end of the tunnel. In November, a bill was approved by the Senate for fifteen billion dollars to fix the lead pipes that carry Water to so much of the United States. When Biden originally proposed his Infrastructure bill, he asked for forty-five billion dollars for lead pipe remediation, but after much debate, the United States Congress approved fifteen billion. With this bipartisan infrastructure bill being signed into law, the funds allocated to addressing lead pipes can help improve the health of our population and the cleanliness of our drinking water by removing the toxins from lead pipes.

Even with this recent step forward, Water& finds it critical to acknowledge the circumstances that allowed this issue to snowball to this degree. Lead pipes started being used for plumbing thousands of years ago. Engineers chose these pipes because of their many benefits including its resistance to leaks and flexibility. Many cities even required lead pipes in buildings and homes because it made the engineers’ jobs easier. At the time, there was limited knowledge surrounding lead pipes and the damage that they can cause. When these pipes were used in prior decades, there were already many health issues overtaking the population, which made the lead pipes an afterthought regardless of if they were the cause. However, now there are various organizations in place to test national Water quality such as the CDC and EPA. For decades, people were experiencing lead poisoning without being fully cognizant of it. Finally, in the early 1920’s, geochemist Clair Patterson discovered the poisonous qualities of lead, but the continued consumption has made this problem much worse.

Instead of using lead, this plan proposes using PVC or copper pipes, which is often used in construction and plumbing already. These new pipes pose much less of a health risk and would be extremely beneficial for our country. In addition to the swapping of the pipes, President Biden also plans to create local branches of the EPA to constantly monitor the Water quality and ensure proper hygiene all around the country. These changes could have an immense impact on Water quality in the United States.

After the news broke about this bill, the American people were left with mixed reactions. This is clearly a significant step forward towards clean Water for all, but why has it taken this long to create change? Water contamination has been a problem dating back to the Ancient Romans, and we are still dealing with this issue thousands of years later. In the past, various illnesses plagued our population, and with limited medical knowledge, it was difficult to discern the cause of such illnesses. However, we now have extensive resources and are fully aware of this glaring problem, and we often still resort to turning a blind eye. These new pipes may mitigate our current Water problems, but this issue still necessitates ongoing effort to monitor and prioritize resolving these issues as they arise as a means to move beyond the harmful historical precedent that has been set with years of neglect towards these issues. As well as convey to the American public that these Water issues have serious environmental and health implications and are deserving of attention. The American government has continuously put problems like these on the back burner, and at Water&, we have had enough. Water& is here to shed light on these crucial issues through our education efforts on environmental justice and continually push activism forward with our ongoing research to facilitate effective policy advocacy.

This new allocation of funding from the Infrastructure bill for addressing lead pipes offers ample opportunities for environmental and health improvements to be made in communities across the country. However, it is necessary to acknowledge that the original proposed amount for lead pipe remediation was 45 billion, three times higher than the current allocation. Although 15 billion dollars is promising, 45 billion dollars would help better support lead pipe remediation efforts since some groups estimate the cost to fully replace all lead pipes may far exceed 15 billion and other environmental groups have posited that there may be more lead pipelines than anticipated; increased funding would support widespread and effective execution of these efforts. Water& acknowledges that this funding is an important step forward, while also recognizing there is still more to be done. Water& intends to keep researching on the damaging effects lead pipes have on communities and continue advocating for the necessary policies to address these issues. The fight for clean Water for all does not stop here; it must continue moving forward. Sources


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