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Statement: Bipartisan clean water infrastructure bill passes U.S. Senate

This legislation is a good first step towards cleaner water, but more investments are needed to adequately address need
For Immediate Release

OAKLAND, Calif. -- The Senate passed the Drinking Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Act of 2021 on Thursday. The legislation would provide a boost to water infrastructure by authorizing more than $35 billion over a five year period for water resource projects. The bill also improves programs to replace lead pipes and stop lead contamination of schools’ water, and creates a program to increase water affordability.

Sewage and runoff pollution continue to threaten public health with pathogen pollution. In addition, lead contamination of drinking water is widespread, even in our schools. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that we will need $271 billion for wastewater infrastructure, and over $472 billion for drinking water infrastructure over the next 20 years. 

Claudia Deeg, CALPIRG Public Health Associate, issued the following statement:

“We applaud Senators Feinstein and Padilla for responding to our water woes with common sense, bi-partisan action. This legislation makes critically important investments in our outdated and failing water infrastructure and getting the lead out of drinking water. Here in California, recent testing at schools has shown that lead contamination is widespread across the state. According to our July 2020 analysis and interactive map, more than 1,300 schools in California found dangerous levels of lead in their water from more than half of reporting school districts in the state representing rural, suburban and urban areas. 

“The presence of such a highly potent neurotoxin that impacts our children in drinking water is unacceptable. Replacing lead service lines is crucial in solving this crisis, but lead-laced faucets and other drinking water fixtures are a key part of the problem too. San Diego Unified, the first school district in California to adopt a stricter standard on lead in drinking water, tested different solutions in one elementary school to determine the best plan to get the lead out. They found that the primary source of lead contamination was the faucets and drinking water fixtures themselves.

“The California State Legislature has an opportunity to act on this right now by passing Assembly Bill 100. This bill would require faucets sold in California to leach as little lead as possible and will provide schools and consumers with easily comprehensible graphic labelling to identify the safest options. We call on our state legislators to follow Congress’ lead and act swiftly to ensure safe drinking water for all.”

Laura Deehan, Environment California State Director, issued the following statement:

“We are so grateful to our California Senators for passing this critical bill for safe, clean drinking water, but there is much more to do. We’ll keep working with our elected leaders to reinstate the 20 percent carve-out for natural and green infrastructure and provide full funding to get the lead out of our drinking water systems.

“Nearly fifty years ago, our nation set goals for making all our waterways safe for swimming and ensuring safe drinking water from every tap. Yet 202 of 253 tested California beaches were potentially unsafe for swimming on at least one day in 2019 due to fecal bacteria. In Alameda County, the average beach was potentially unsafe for swimming on 32% of the days that sampling took place, a higher percentage than any other county in the state.

“Environment California has been building the case for the historic investments needed to address these threats to clean water. We are delivering to our leaders proof of the great public support for clean water, from a letter signed by more than 130 businesses to one from more than 360 local officials, including 55 leaders from California. We have solutions to the problems our waterways and drinking water face -- solutions boasting bipartisan public support.”