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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

EPA allocates $28.6 million to replace lead pipes in PR

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Regional Administrator Lisa F. García with Gov. Pedro Pierluisi (EPA Region 2 Facebook)

By The Star Staff

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced $28.6 million from President Joe Biden’s Investing in America agenda to help Puerto Rico identify and replace lead service lines to prevent exposure to lead in drinking water.

Lead can cause a range of serious health impacts, including irreversible harm to brain development in children. To protect children and families, Biden has committed to replacing every lead pipe in the country. The announced initiative, funded by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) and available through EPA’s successful Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF), takes another major step to advance the needed work and environmental justice, and bolsters the Biden administration’s Lead Pipe and Paint Action Plan and EPA’s Get the Lead Out initiative.

Working collaboratively, EPA and the state revolving funds are advancing the president’s Justice40 Initiative as lead exposure disproportionately affects communities of color and low-income families. The total funding announced through the program to date is expected to replace up to 1.7 million lead pipes nationwide, securing clean drinking water for countless families.

“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,” EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan said. “President Biden understands it is critical to identify and remove lead pipes as quickly as possible, and he has secured significant resources for states and territories to accelerate the permanent removal of dangerous lead pipes once and for all.”

“Every Puerto Rican family deserves safe drinking water when they turn on their tap and this major injection of funding will further bolster the work to achieve that goal,” EPA Regional Administrator Lisa F. García said. “For too long, the urgent need to improve our drinking water systems has far outweighed the available funding. This crucial Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funding is helping close that gap.”

Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González Colón noted that “[t]he continued exposure to lead in drinking water is a serious health risk to individuals, especially children. I am pleased that Puerto Rico will be receiving $28.6 million in funding for lead water service line replacement under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. This funding through the State Revolving Fund (SRF) helps us to move forward in addressing the pressing issue of aging infrastructure and safeguarding the health of our residents.”

“By replacing these outdated lines, we are improving water quality and protecting our communities’ well-being for generations to come,” she said. “I am proud to have been part of the effort to craft and pass the BIL as a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. As we move forward, I remain dedicated to advocating for additional investments in Puerto Rico’s infrastructure to address longstanding challenges and build a more resilient future for all.”

The BIL invests a historic $15 billion 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 (LSLR) funding must be provided as grants and forgivable loans to disadvantaged communities, a crucial investment for communities that have long been underinvested in. The EPA projects a national total of 9 million lead service lines across the country, based on data collected from the updated 7th Drinking Water Infrastructure Needs Survey and Assessment. The funding announced this week 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 allows states to receive financial assistance commensurate with their need as soon as possible, furthering public health protection nationwide. To ensure that funding is used for lead service line-related activities, LSLR allotments are based on need — meaning that states with more projected lead service lines receive proportionally more.

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