House Dems look to update drinking water laws

House Dems look to update drinking water laws
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House Democrats introduced Thursday a bill to update federal drinking water standards for the first time in 20 years. 

The legislation, from Reps. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.) and Paul TonkoPaul David TonkoBipartisan senators propose forcing EPA to set drinking water standard for 'forever chemicals' Bipartisan senators propose forcing EPA to set drinking water standard for 'forever chemicals' Overnight Energy: Measure would force EPA to regulate 'forever chemicals' in water | Emails show Trump official consulted climate deniers | Democrats urge Puerto Rico to reject debt deal for power company MORE (D-N.Y.), would expand Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) drinking water protections and set new limits on toxins like lead. 

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The bill would also create new grants for replacing lead service lines in local communities, and prioritize lead prevention and monitoring at schools around the country. 

The legislation would be the first update to the Safe Drinking Water Act in nearly two decades. Pallone's office said it draws on proposals by at least 15 other Democrats. 

Members introduced the bill as Congress and regulators grapple with a high-profile water crisis in Flint, Mich., where the local water supply corroded pipes and lead levels in the drinking water spiked. 

Congress is closing in on approving a $220 million effort to repair and replace at-risk drinking water infrastructure in Flint and other cities around the United States. The Senate passed that aid package last week, and the House approved a separate bill earlier this year bolstering EPA drinking water monitoring efforts.

Even so, members have looked to do even more for Flint and other cities with threatened drinking water supplies. 

“The crisis in Flint has highlighted the need for action, but water systems nationwide are in dire need of dramatic improvements, including many in my home state of New Jersey,” Pallone, the top Democrat on the Energy and Commerce Committee, said in a statement.

“This comprehensive legislation provides the tools and resources that state and local governments need to ensure the public is provided with clean, safe drinking water."

—This post was updated at 11:14 a.m.