Story at a glance

  • The Biden administration will be releasing $7.4 billion to states, tribes and territories across the country to update aging water infrastructure.
  • The money is part of Biden’s recently signed infrastructure plan and includes $2.9 billion to replace lead pipes and $866 million for eliminating “forever chemicals.”
  • Though the White House cannot dictate exactly how states spend the money, they are hoping to focus grants on projects that address water infrastructure.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) made a series of announcements this week, awarding states money to update aging water pipes, a signature part of President Biden’s infrastructure plan.

The Biden administration announced that the EPA will distribute $7.4 billion to states, tribes and territories that’s intended to be spent on water infrastructure grants and loan forgiveness. The money is for next year and is part of a broader $50 billion investment by the federal government in water infrastructure that will be portioned out over the next five years.

In an interview with NBC News, EPA administrator Michael Regan said, "This law's investment in water is nothing short of transformational. We're less than three weeks post the president signing this, and we're hitting the ground running."

Within the infrastructure plan’s water funds, $2.9 billion is specifically set aside to replace lead pipes around the country, a promise that Biden has reiterated throughout his presidency. There’s also $866 million earmarked for eliminating “forever chemicals,” known as per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAs). 


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PFAs are considered long-lasting chemicals that break down very slowly over time and are prevalent in the U.S. water supply. When turning on an average faucet in the US, Environmental Working Group considers PFAs like, “pouring a cocktail of chemicals.”

In a letter sent to governors across the country, Regan encouraged states to maximize the impact of water funding from the law to address disproportionate environmental burdens in historically underserved communities across the country.

Michigan is a strong example of this, with predominantly minority communities in Flint, Mich. experiencing record high levels of lead contamination in their water supply for years. According to The Washington Post, between 18,000 to 20,000 children and adolescents lived in Flint during the water crisis and only after a court order did the city begin to replace it’s lead pipes.

However, the Biden administration cannot dictate exactly how states spend the infrastructure dollars, but they can try to sway states to address certain projects by handing out grants tied to specific issues. 

John Rumpler, senior attorney with Environment America, told the Associated Press about Biden’s push to address water infrastructure, “It’s going to take a concerted effort by local officials and community activists and state agencies to ensure that this money is used as effectively as possible,” he said.


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Published on Dec 03, 2021