Help Is Coming To Replace Pennsylvania’s Lead Pipes

FILE - Lead water pipes pulled from underneath the street are seen in Newark, N.J., Oct. 21, 2021. Lead pipes have caused harm for decades. In recent years, residents in Newark and Benton Harbor, Mich., were forced to use bottled water for basic needs like cooking and drinking, after tests revealed elevated levels of lead. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)

By Patrick Berkery

April 5, 2023

Results from a new EPA survey will help determine the amount of infrastructure funds states will receive going forward to remove lead pipes. Pennsylvania has already received $87 million for lead pipe removal.

Some 9.2 million lead pipes carry water into homes across the U.S., and 7.50% of them are located in Pennsylvania, according to a new Environmental Protection Agency survey that will dictate how billions of dollars to find and replace those pipes are spent.

More than 688,000 lead pipes carry water into Pennsylvania homes according to the survey, the fourth highest total of any state. Florida (12.62%), with an estimated 1.16 million pipes, has the highest total. Illinois (11.35%) ranked second in the survey, with 1.04 million lead pipes, followed by Ohio (8.11%). Texas (7.05%) followed Pennsylvania.

The agency’s drinking water infrastructure survey will be used to steer billions of remaining dollars from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to water infrastructure upgrades like finding and removing lead pipes in states that need it most. Previously, a state’s share of lead pipe funds was based on its general infrastructure need and didn’t consider how many lead pipes the state had.

Lead can cause brain damage and the EPA says no amount is safe for children’s bodies. The Biden administration has set a goal to remove all of the country’s lead water pipes. The $15 billion from the infrastructure law for lead pipe work will significantly help, but it won’t be enough, experts say, to solve the problem.

“Every community deserves access to safe, clean drinking water,” said EPA Administrator Michael Regan. “Thanks to President Biden’s infrastructure investments, we have an unprecedented opportunity to revitalize America’s drinking water systems, support the Biden-Harris administration’s goal of removing 100% of lead pipes across our country, and protect communities from PFAS pollution.”

As of February, $240 million in infrastructure funds have been allocated for Pennsylvania to provide residents with clean and safe drinking water. Of this funding, $87.3 million is set to be used for lead pipe and service line replacement. 

According to the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, many of the residential lead pipes tend to be in older neighborhoods where persons of color, seniors, or economically disadvantaged citizens often reside.

Pittsburgh has already invested $17.5 million in American Rescue Plan funds to remove 750 lead service lines, with a goal of replacing all lead service lines in the city by 2026.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this story.


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