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Menendez, Booker, Pascrell Introduce Bill to Help Overhaul Aging Water Infrastructure, Replace Lead Pipes

U.S. Senators Bob Menendez and Cory Booker and Congressman Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ-09) today introduced bicameral legislation that creates a new Lead Free America Bond program for local communities seeking to replace lead service lines and other lead water infrastructure. Contaminated drinking water is often the source of lead exposure in communities. Without federal investment, local governments would be unable to tackle the massive overhaul of their aging water infrastructure.

“Towns and cities across New Jersey are sitting on some of the nation’s oldest water infrastructure.  And while many communities are taking proactive steps to replace lead pipes and modernize their antiquated water systems, doing so comes with a hefty price tag. Our bill will help them secure the financing they need to upgrade their drinking water and protect residents,” said Sen. Menendez, a senior member of the Senate Finance Committee that sets national tax policy. “Modernizing water infrastructure is a matter of public health, safety, racial, and environmental justice.  With a strong federal and local partnership, we can transform communities that too often bear the brunt of our environmental crises.”

“Every day, children and families in New Jersey and across the country are facing the realities of our aging infrastructure and worrying about the safety of their drinking water,” said Sen. Booker. “Communities of color, low income communities and Indigenous communities suffer the most from these challenges. The federal government has a responsibility to provide funding to remediate lead in drinking water, and this legislation will provide desperately needed assistance for communities in New Jersey to repair and upgrade drinking water systems.”

“From Michigan to New Jersey, the scourge of lead contamination has been tragic and far-reaching. The costs of lead pipes are often borne by some of our most disadvantaged and impoverished communities,” said Rep. Pascrell, a senior member of the House Ways and Means Committee that sets national tax policy. “We must especially shield children from exposure, and that begins with modernizing America’s water infrastructure. Our legislation will help communities eliminate lead contamination so future generations can be protected. A great nation can provide no better resource than clean, fresh water to all its citizens. I’m proud to join with Senators Menendez and Booker in this effort to reduce and eradicate the public health menace of lead exposure.”

The Lead-Free America Bonds Act will allow eligible communities to secure the financing they need to accelerate the replacement of lead pipes and aging water infrastructure. Entities that issue Lead Free American Bonds (LFABs) will receive a payment from the federal government equivalent to the cost of interest on the bond, essentially making them interest-free.

LFABs can be issued by a municipality to replace lead water infrastructure that has exceeded the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) lead action level in the six years prior to enactment, or following enactment. Municipalities would have five years to spend the funds from the bond to ensure the expedited removal of lead service lines and other lead infrastructure.  The bonds are eligible for removing both publicly-owned infrastructure and service lines that lie on private property.

“Senator Menendez and Congressman Pascrell have been relentless advocates for clean water for New Jersey communities,” said Governor Phil Murphy. “The Lead Free America Bond Program will provide critical support for our towns and cities to replace outdated lead service lines and modernize water infrastructure across the state. Without federal support, it is difficult for many municipalities to initiate or continue critical infrastructure projects, and this program will go a long way towards ensuring that no New Jerseyan needs to worry about whether the water in their home is safe to use.”

U.S. Representatives Gwen Moore (D-Wisc.) and Dan Kildee (D-Mich.) also sponsored the bill in the House.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 500,000 children in the United States have elevated levels of lead in their blood. Lead exposure can cause damage to both the nervous system and brain. This can lead to developmental delays, intellectual impairment, speech and hearing problems and learning disabilities.

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