Biden Announces $500 Million Funding to Replace Lead Pipes, Upgrade Philadelphia’s Water System

By Jeff Louderback
Jeff Louderback
Jeff Louderback
Jeff Louderback covers news and features on the White House and executive agencies for The Epoch Times. He also reports on Senate and House elections. A professional journalist since 1990, Jeff has a versatile background that includes covering news and politics, business, professional and college sports, and lifestyle topics for regional and national media outlets.
February 4, 2023Updated: February 5, 2023

Every American deserves to “turn on their water tap or faucet and be able to drink clean water,” President Joe Biden told an audience at the Belmont Water Treatment Plant in Philadelphia on Feb. 3.

“Through the infrastructure law, we’re making historic investments to make sure that they can,” he said.

Biden was joined by Vice President Kamala Harris at the water treatment facility to announce $500 million in federal support to upgrade aging lead pipes and improve Philadelphia’s water system.

The money is part of the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure law that Biden signed into law in November 2022. In Philadelphia, $160 million will be used to replace 19 miles of lead pipes and enhance water treatment plants.

Epoch Times Photo
President Joe Biden talks to reporters after returning to the White House on Jan. 30, 2023. Biden had traveled to Baltimore to talk about how the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law’s funds are slated to help replace the 150-year-old Baltimore to Potomac Tunnel. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

“To date, $240 million has been awarded to Pennsylvania to provide clean and safe water across the state and improve water and wastewater infrastructure through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law,” the White House said in a statement.

The city will receive another $340 million through an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) loan, Biden announced.

The first $19 million of those funds will be allocated to replace 160 lead service lines and 13 miles of water mains.

“This represents the biggest investment in drinking water infrastructure in a generation, and we would not be able to do this work without this level of federal investment,” Philadelphia Water Department Commissioner Randy E. Hayman said.

Overall, $15 billion from the infrastructure bill will be used to remove lead pipes from service across the United States.

Biden and Harris are traveling the country touting projects funded by the legislation.

“I signed the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, a once-in-a-generation investment, putting Americans to work to rebuild our nation’s roads, highways, bridges, railroads, ports, airports, high-speed internet, our water systems, and so much more,” Biden said on Feb. 3.

“I’ve traveled the country in recent weeks and seen this law in action. A massive new bridge over the Ohio River between Kentucky and Ohio, a huge tunnel along the Amtrak line in Baltimore and New York—billions of dollars. Pennsylvania alone is going to get $8.1 billion,” Biden added.

The president then turned his attention to water.

“We’re the richest, most prosperous nation in the world. Water ought to be something that’s just guaranteed. But, unfortunately, that’s not the case,” he said.

“Right now, there are an estimated 160,000 service lines carrying water into homes and schools in Pennsylvania, including an estimated 20,000 lines for homes here in the city of Philadelphia,” Biden continued. “Ten million families across the country and hundreds of thousands of schools—and where schoolchildren and day care centers exist—that their water is pumped through lead pipes, lead valves, and lead fixtures.”

These water issues are especially prominent in the Midwest and Northeast, Biden explained, noting that the “average age of water and sewer pipes in the United States is nearly 50 years old, and they’re often even older in major cities like Philadelphia.”

Biden then explained why he believes that lead exposure in water is a problem.

“Exposure to lead impacts children’s brain development. It’s hazardous to their health. No amount of lead in water is safe. None,” Biden said. “It can damage the brain and kidneys and interfere with the production of red blood cells that the body needs to carry oxygen.

“The CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] estimates that over half of American children could be exposed to lead, with the exposure often coming from their own homes. The problem disproportionately affects low-income families. People of color are much more likely to live in homes where lead exposure is an issue.”

Biden said that when he took office, he and “the vice president … made a commitment to replace every single service line in every part of the country over the next decade.”

The American Rescue Plan, which Biden signed in 2021, provides $350 billion to state and local governments.

“We said they could use it for things like replacing lead lines and lead fixtures in their communities,” Biden said. “I’m proud the City of Pittsburgh used $17.5 million as part of their plan to replace lead service lines in the city by 2026.”

On the one-year anniversary of Biden’s Lead Pipe and Paint Action Plan, the EPA announced the launch of the Lead Service Line Replacement Accelerators initiative. Through this program, the EPA will provide hands-on support to guide communities through the process of lead service line removals, from start to finish, according to a statement.

“We got to remember who in God’s name we are. We’re the United States of America. There is nothing—nothing beyond our capacity. Nothing,” Biden said in his closing remarks on Feb. 3.

“The least we can do, although it’s going to be incredibly expensive and take a little bit of time, is make sure that those 400,000 schools and day care centers and the like, when they turn on the water at that school, their tap, and the fountain, that that water is clean and pure.

“We owe it to our kids and grandkids.”