WASHINGTON, DC (WIVB) – President Joe Biden’s proposed $ 1.2 trillion infrastructure draft would include $ 45 billion to be used to remove lead pipelines across the country. Lead is a natural element found in the earth’s crust. Corrosion in pipelines can lead to it getting into drinking water.
“There aren’t many other things that we believe can pay off so remarkably for both individuals and society at large,” said David Wessel, director of the Hutchins Center at the Brookings Institution.
Lead can have serious health consequences for both children and adults. Low blood lead levels in children can lead to slow growth, hearing problems, anemia, hyperactivity, and learning problems. In the meantime, adults may experience increased blood pressure, decreased kidney function, and reproductive problems.
“Lead is invisible,” said Wessel. “You don’t really know unless you test your water or someone tells you, like in Flint, that there is a problem … Although it’s a known threat, it’s an invisible one.”
The Environmental Protection Agency reports that there are six to ten million lead service lines nationwide. That means 15 to 22 million people get water from lead pipes.
“I think that should be relatively undisputed,” said Wessel. “But of course nothing is uncontroversial in Washington these days.”
There are now between 30,000-40,000 lead pipelines in Buffalo. Buffalo Water chairman Oluwole McFoy says they have replaced over 500 of these service lines.
“We have a way to go,” said McFoy. “So it costs a lot of money.”
McFoy says it could cost up to $ 500 million to replace all leading service lines in Buffalo.
“[Lead service lines are] between $ 10,000 and $ 15,000 to replace a senior service line in our city, ”said McFoy.
Even with federal funding, it could take up to 25 years to replace these lead pipes in Buffalo. But McFoy says this will remain a priority no matter what.
“It fits right in with our mission, public health,” said McFoy. “We need to ensure that we maintain our customers ‘and residents’ trust in the people we serve in providing safe, clean water.”