Every day, tens of millions of Americans drink primarily from lead straws. They get their drinking water from lead water pipes in the ground which can threaten their health by contributing to high levels of lead in their families’ tap water. Tens of millions more are served by decrepit water supplies struggling to provide water that meets basic health and safety standards. And when people in cities and towns across the country flush their toilets, sewage often goes untreated in rivers and lakes during storms due to insufficient sewers and water plants. treatment. Others have no sanitation at all, are left on “straight pipes” that bring their raw waste directly into a nearby stream, or still use backyard latrines.
Now is the time to invest in fixing our long overlooked hydraulic infrastructure defects that prompted the American Society of Civil Engineers to classify our drinking water systems to a “C-” and storm water systems to a “D.” It’s a newsletter that we would be ashamed to bring back to mom and dad.
The president’s budget for fiscal year 2022 (FY22) would be a down payment to deal with this crisis. It would invest $ 3.6 billion in hydraulic infrastructure. This would represent a modest but significant increase from the current fiscal year of roughly $ 2.8 billion invested in EPA water infrastructure funding.
Ultimately, it will take a lot more clearly. The US presidential plan for jobs would invest $ 45 billion to remove all lead pipes in the country from the ground, as well as significant additional investments in repairing our water infrastructure, for a total of $ 111 billion.
Investment in hydraulic infrastructure will be a big creator of jobs. For example, a recent study by the Metropolitan Planning Council found that replacing all of Illinois’ lead service lines alone could create up to 224,500 jobs and $ 23 billion in additional economic activity. Expand that to a national investment, and the number of new, well-paying jobs will be huge. Indeed, a University of Massachusetts study found that investing $ 35 billion per year in water infrastructure would create around 475,000 jobs. And most jobs in the water utility pay a good living wage; even at the lower end of the spectrum, a Brooking study found that jobs in the water industry pay up to 50 percent more than comparable jobs in other fields.
This investment will not only improve the protection of our water and create well-paying jobs, but it can and will address environmental injustices. The NRDC has learned from our partners in Flint, Newark, Pittsburgh and other cities, and from our reviews of EPA data, that those left behind by divestment in water infrastructure are communities of color to disproportionately low income. As shown in a study and map reproduced below developed by my colleague, Dr Kristi Pullen Fedinick, lead contamination is a national problem, but it is often more particularly concentrated in certain less wealthy communities.
In addition to many urban communities that have suffered from severe disinvestment in their infrastructure, disadvantaged rural and tribal communities are also in serious danger. Families in these communities often have to live with severely contaminated water or no water at all on a daily basis, have lead service lines and sometimes have raw sewage flow in their streets or completely lack sanitation. In many of these communities, democracy itself has been seriously compromised. In Flint, for example, state-appointed officials made fateful reckless decisions that led to severe contamination, with residents and their elected officials effectively disenfranchised.
The time is long past for us to make the necessary investments to protect our health and our waterways. President Biden’s budget and the US Jobs Plan will take a big step towards making these essential investments.