The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates there are 6 to 10 million lead service lines in the country. Parts of the USD 1trn Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) take aim at bolstering state and local utility efforts to address drinking water infrastructure over the next five fiscal years (FY22-FY26).
Improving water infrastructure on a local level requires financial resources that many small, local communities don’t have. IIJA could amount to the largest federal investment in water infrastructure in history. To achieve clean water goals, it’s necessary to address lead pipes and toxic chemicals in the water.
Lead service lines are water pipes in the ground that carry water from the water main under the street to residences. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, lead pipes are likely in all 50 states.
The recent developments in City of Benton Harbor, Michigan highlight the lead pipe issues that cities across the country are grappling with and the ongoing saga in Flint, Michigan provides a glimpse of the time and complexity involved in addressing this problem.
Key drinking water and clean water provisions in IIJA
Below is a comprehensive list of programs funded in IJJA. Where applicable, the section number in IIJA is provided. All programs listed would be funded for five years (FY22-FY26).
Given the scope of the problem, it is likely that additional funding will be required to substantively address the nation’s drinking water and wastewater infrastructure needs. This raises the risk of municipalities having to unexpectedly redirect limited resources to a potentially catastrophic and long-lasting situation.
On 10 August, the US Senate passed on a bipartisan basis the USD 1trn IIJA, also referred to as H.R. 3684. The IIJA focuses on “hard infrastructure.” The IIJA will not get a vote in the House of Representatives until the fate of the USD 3.5trn “soft infrastructure” legislation proposed by congressional Democrats is resolved.
As these negotiations continue, Debtwire Municipals, through our Bill in Brief series, will write periodic summaries on elements of the IIJA that directly affect state and local governments.
by Paul Greaves