Vice President Harris announces major investment to fix Pennsylvania water infrastructure - TAI News
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Vice President Kamala Harris visited Pittsburgh on Feb. 20 to announce that the Biden administration will be funding projects to upgrade and repair water infrastructure in Pennsylvania and across the country.

“Today, I am proud to announce more than $5.8 billion from our Investing in America agenda for states, Tribes, and territories to upgrade water infrastructure in communities across our nation. With this investment, we are continuing our urgent work to remove every lead pipe in the country and ensure that every American has access to safe and reliable drinking water,” Harris said in a statement.

A large portion of the newly announced round of investments, which will be made through the Environmental Protection Agency, comes from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act that President Joe Biden signed in 2021.

The EPA estimates that Pennsylvania will receive more than $200 million from the agency’s Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Fund. The Clean Water fund sends money to individual states to provide low interest loans for water infrastructure projects.

Legislation and policies implemented by Biden have funded a total of $50 billion for water projects, which EPA Administrator Michael Regan described as “the largest investment in water infrastructure in our nation’s history.” Funding will be sent to all 50 states, tribal communities, and U.S. territories.

Previously announced awards have already been funding work in Pennsylvania. In 2023, the Wilkinsburg-Penn Joint Water Authority received a grant that was used to replace approximately 1,000 lead water service lines.

Water transported through such pipes can introduce lead into the water supply; the lead can then be absorbed by people. Lead can cause severe harm to children, including brain damage, learning disabilities, and slowed growth. It can also result in maladies in adults, including nerve disorders, high blood pressure, and reproductive health issues.

Lead exposure disproportionately affects Black communities at a higher rate than it does the rest of the U.S. population due to the long-term systemic effects of urban planning based on racist practices. Racist policies resulted in neglect of the impacts of environmental hazards on those communities, including lead.

In 2021, the Biden administration announced its Lead Pipe and Paint Action Plan, which is aimed at replacing all lead pipes throughout the country over the next decade.

Democratic Rep. Summer Lee, who represents Pennsylvania’s 12th Congressional District, said that the new round of funding announced by the Biden administration would be especially welcome in Pennsylvania following the recent disclosure of elevated lead levels in area schools.

Dozens of schools in western Pennsylvania tested positive for lead in 2022, including some schools that recorded levels at two to three times the maximum limit recommended by the EPA.

“I came to Congress to represent the Black, brown, and poor communities that have been deemed as ‘sacrifice zones’ for polluters. Generations of folks in communities like mine have grown up in and are now raising children in zip codes that have water funneled through lead pipes next to rivers and streams too polluted to swim in,” Lee said in a release.

Lee said the funds will mean that fewer children will get sick and that families will no longer feel threatened by the environment they live in.

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The Pennsylvania Independent is a project of American Independent Media, a 501(c)(4) organization whose mission is to use journalism to educate the public, giving them the information they need about local and federal issues.