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Flint Reminds Us: Clean Water Is on the Line This November

10 years after the start of Flint's lead-in-water crisis, we still need bold policies, adequate funding, and leaders who will ensure clean water for all.

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Flint, Michigan has become a household name in the United States for all the wrong reasons. A lead-in-water crisis, sparked by racist State mismanagement of the City’s water system, has been poisoning residents for a decade. Today, on the 10th anniversary of the start of this crisis, residents are still suffering the consequences and still have lead pipes

Unfortunately, Flint is not alone. It brought national attention to lead, water quality, and infrastructure issues in places across the country. It’s clearer than ever that we need policy and investments to protect our health and ensure clean, affordable water for everyone. But while some of our leaders are championing this, others are ignoring it — or worse, opposing it outright.

This November, much-needed progress on protections for our water is on the line. 

We Need Regulations to Protect Our Water from Contamination

Nationwide, our water faces multiple threats, from factory farm pollution to toxic chemicals to lead contamination. To protect our water and our health, we need strong regulations. 

In 2023, the White House announced much-needed updates to the Lead and Copper Rule. The Trump administration had put out its own weak version, delaying lead line replacements and putting families at continued risk of lead poisoning. President Biden’s new rules require most public lead service lines to be replaced in 10 years. They also lower the lead contamination level at which water systems must respond. 

This update is a vital step toward the goal of removing all lead pipes nationwide. But somehow, some electeds are opposing these strides. One Republican Attorney General even downplayed the benefits, calling them “speculative.” Of course, we know that lead is unsafe at any level in water and contributes to neurological and developmental harms.

The Biden administration also passed the first national drinking water limits on toxic PFAS “forever” chemicals. Meanwhile, the Trump administration created a loophole that helped PFAS makers avoid reporting their pollution, and slowed or rolled back action on other toxic chemicals. What’s more, many Republican lawmakers are defending the chemical industry from accountability and tougher regulations. 

At the same time, we’re still grappling with the damage done by Trump’s weakening of the Clean Water Act. The administration rolled back decades-old protections for streams and wetlands, many of which connect to drinking water sources. 

We Need Federal Funding to Build Back Our Water Infrastructure

Along with lax regulations, many of our country’s water quality issues stem from our aging infrastructure. Our pipes are old and outdated. Many water systems nationwide are struggling to keep up with costs. 

Fixing this and ensuring clean water nationwide will take a huge investment. The full cost of replacing lead lines alone will be an estimated $60 billion.

This funding is essential for public health, and it must come from the federal government. Many communities most impacted by contamination don’t have the resources to fix these problems on their own. Without federal funding, inequities in water quality and infrastructure will continue to widen.

Yet, in 2023, Republicans in the House attempted to cut almost $2 billion in federal funding for water infrastructure. The Trump Administration also completely failed to address these problems. During the former president’s term, “Infrastructure Week” became a running joke, as officials made a lot of noise about infrastructure and then never took action. 

Biden actually passed an infrastructure bill that sets aside $50 billion for our water infrastructure and $15 billion for lead line replacements. This is an important first step toward fully funding our country’s water infrastructure needs.

With Allies in Office, We Can Push For the Policies We Need

For communities like Flint, Michigan and many others nationwide, water policy is a matter of life and death. Everyone deserves safe, affordable water, and we have the policy tools to make it happen.

Though Biden has provided only a portion of all the funding we need, we have a law in Congress right now that could take it all the way. The WATER Act would provide the $35 a year billion to make the needed repairs and updates to our country’s water infrastructure, especially lead service line replacements.

The bill is sponsored by our longtime allies Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman and Sen. Bernie Sanders. Over the past few years, it has amassed over 100 co-sponsors in both chambers and supporters amongst Congressional candidates nationwide. 

However, we currently have a loud faction of elected officials who would rather win brownie points for spending cuts and appeal to corporate polluters than protect their constituents. They stand in the way of protective water policy, and we need to vote them out. 

To replace them, we can elect lawmakers who will take our water seriously, work for water justice for communities like Flint, and ensure everyone’s right to clean water.

Join our work electing champions for clean, safe, affordable water.

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