We are listening closely to the rhetoric out of Washington to see if the Biden “Infrastructure Plan” provides cover for a lot of social programs spending instead of roads, bridges, dams, water projects—infrastructure in the traditional hard-surface sense. As it turns out, the answer may turn out to be a combination of both for political expediency sake. 

The overhead name for the Biden proposal carries the politically savvy title “The American Jobs Plan,” and it calls for $621 billion in transportation infrastructure and “resilience,” which includes various climate priorities for the President.

Drinking water funding is at the top of the list of “other” Infrastructure with a proposed investment of $111 billion to replace all the nation’s lead pipes and service lines, upgrade and modernize the water systems (i.e., drinking water, wastewater and stormwater), address new water contaminants such as PFAS, and support clean water infrastructure in rural America.

Padilla’s Legislative Voyage

California’s new junior Senator, Alex Padilla, joined with Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) in late June, announcing the introduction of the Lead-Free Drinking Water for All Act, an effort to invest $45 billion to replace every lead service line and pipe in the next ten years. Nationwide, an estimated six to ten million lead service lines are serving up to 22 million Americans.

Lead contamination in drinking water is particularly prevalent in California’s Central Valley. For example, in 2017, approximately 25 percent of schools in Fresno County reported lead in their drinking water, while statewide, almost one in five kids go to schools that served drinking water with lead contamination. 

“The injustice that we all witnessed in Flint, Michigan is happening all across the country, including in California – and it’s hurting communities of color the most,” said Senator Padilla. “This is an environmental catastrophe; children are poisoned in their own homes and schools, and families are forced to depend on bottled water to avoid contamination. We must act to protect our communities and ensure that every American has lead-free drinking water.”

The legislation would run funding through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s lead reduction projects grant program and increase the authorization to $4.5 billion per year for a decade. The money will go to states under their Drinking Water State Revolving Funds. One particularly attractive piece of the bill requires all the work to be under prevailing wage rules. We salute Senator Padilla for introducing this important bill.

By Ray Baca, Executive Director Email: [email protected]