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Without The Schumer-Negotiated Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal, Rochester’s Water Would NOT Be Lead Free Until  At Least 2050; Rochester’s Plan to Remove Massive Backlog of 25,000 lead pipes Costs $186M by 2030 And Needs Additional Funds 

With Hundreds More Rochester Children Being Diagnosed With Lead Poisoning Last Year, Senator Says Legislation Will Provide the Needed $$$ That Rochester Can Tap to Complete Pipe Removals & Eliminate Lead Service Pipes In Disadvantaged Communities That Need It Most 

Schumer: Protecting Our Children’s Health Must Be Our #1 Priority

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer today announced that the Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal he negotiated in the Senate, and is on its way to the President’s desk to be signed into law, will deliver major victories to help ensure clean water in Rochester and eliminate toxic lead pipes. As of January 1, 2021, it is estimated Rochester, which has battled high child lead poisoning levels, has over 25,000 lead service pipes to be replaced at an estimated cost of nearly $186 million, which will require the City securing additional funds. Without additional funding, it is estimated it would take until at least 2050 to remove all the lead service lines in the City of Rochester. Now with the Bipartisan Infrastructure deal’s new cash infusion that Senator Schumer helped deliver, Rochester will have access to additional funds needed to help realize their ambitious plan to replace all 25,000 lead water pipes by 2030.  Specifically under its plan the City would eradicated all lead service pipes now in use and accelerate the speed to replace the pipes nearly three times faster, with the timetable rapidly sped up to remove over 20,000 pipes in the next four years and the remainder by 2030.

Schumer explained the bipartisan infrastructure deal will make one of the largest federal investments ever into water infrastructure and explicitly eliminating lead service pipes. Specifically, the senator highlighted a $15 billion carve out within the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF) over the next 5 years ($3 billion every year) for lead service pipe replacement. One hundred percent of the funding is for lead pipe replacement and states are not required to provide a cost share. Additionally, forty-nine percent of the funding will be administered as grants and completely forgivable loans to target aid towards disadvantaged communities who disproportionately experience the impact of lead pipes.

“There is nothing more important than keeping Rochester’s children’s drinking water safe, and this legislation will make the largest federal investment ever solely dedicated to getting toxic lead pipes out of our communities,” said Senator Schumer. “For years I have been a staunch advocate for increased testing and elimination of lead pipes from our homes, schools, and water systems. As Majority Leader, I am proud to deliver this critical funding to help bolster efforts to clean Rochester’s water like never before and I will continue to fight until not one lead pipe remains in New York.” 

Schumer said New York currently has approximately 360,000 lead pipes still delivering water to people’s homes, making it the 4th highest in the nation. Lead is known to lead to severe health problems for children and adults, including damage to the brain and nervous systems, cardiovascular diseases, and adverse effects on the reproductive system and kidneys. 

Schumer said despite all the progress made in Rochester to decrease the percentage of kids with lead poisoning over the past decades, Monroe County Health Department’s 2020 led screening data revealed that 309 Monroe County children had lead poisoning including 283 who live in the City of Rochester.  227 Monroe County children who were tested were found with blood-lead levels of 5-9 micrograms per deciliter, which is associated with permanent neurological damage and behavioral disorders, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). The CDC says even low blood lead levels are a major concern for children under 6 years of age because their brains are not fully developed and are sensitive to lead exposure. An additional 82 in Monroe County were found with even much higher blood-lead levels between 10- 20 micrograms per deciliter.  So despite the successful work over the past decade by officials with the Coalition to Prevent Lead Poising, Monroe County, and the City of Rochester to reduce the number of children with at least 10 micrograms per deciliter from a high in 2003 of 900 children to only 271 in 2020, the number of children now known to have between 5-9 micrograms underscores the continued need to bolster lead hazard abatement efforts.

“Protecting the safety of our children is essential, and that starts with ensuring the water they drink is safe,” said Congressman Joe Morelle. “I'm proud to have worked alongside my colleagues to secure this funding that will help eradicate dangerous lead pipes and ensure our children have every opportunity to thrive and succeed. I’m grateful to Majority Leader Schumer for his leadership and look forward to our continued work together to deliver results for Rochester families.”

Katrina Smith Korfmacher, PhD, Professor of Environmental Medicine, University of Rochester & Coalition to Prevent Lead Poisoning Member said, “We appreciate the Senator’s leadership in bringing resources to Rochester to help permanently eliminate lead water lines as a potential contributor to children’s lead exposure. We look forward to partnering with the City and community to promote the public health benefits of implementing this important effort.”

In addition to the $15 billion in the DWSRF, the legislation also includes language reauthorizing the EPA’s lead reduction projects grant program and increases the program’s authorization to $100 million annually through fiscal year 2026. It also amends the grant program to clarify that the program is intended for the replacement of any lead service line, and that eligible entities shall give priority for lead pipe service line replacement to disadvantaged communities

Schumer has long been a driving force in securing federal funding to reduce lead exposure in New York. In 2016, after reports of elevated lead levels in Ithaca and schools across the state were published, Schumer took action to help jumpstart lead testing programs for schools and day care centers and in 2018, ensured that those programs were fully funded.

Schumer highlighted the below additional programs included in the legislation to help eliminate lead pipes in NY:

  • Lead Contamination in School Drinking Water

The Voluntary School and Childcare Lead Testing Grant is authorized for $200 million over the next 5 years. The program is also amended to make public water systems and eligible nonprofit organizations that service schools and childcare locations eligible grant recipients. It also expands the program to allow funds to be used for compliance monitoring as well as lead reduction projects.

  • Technical Assistance and Grants for Emergencies Affecting Public Water Systems: The legislation extends an expired authority in the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) to provide resources to communities that face a public water system emergency. The fund will help mitigate drinking water threats to public health, and is amended to expand the definition of emergency situations to include an intrusion of lead into the drinking water supply or an emergency situation resulting from a cybersecurity event. The program is reauthorized at $35 million for each of fiscal years from 2022 through 2026.
  • Assistance for Small and Disadvantage Communities Program: The program is expanded to allow for use of funds to purchase filters and filtration systems that remove contaminants of concern from public drinking water systems and for providing information regarding proper filtration use and maintenance and options regarding replacing lead service lines or other sources of lead from water systems and technical assistance. The program is authorized for a total of $510 million over the next 5 years.

Schumer also outlined other wins for the Finger Lakes region in the Bipartisan Infrastructure bill. The region will benefit from:

  • $27,038,025 for Rochester’s Frederick Douglass Airport and $5.4 million for other Finger Lakes airports.
  • $94.5 million estimated for the Rochester-Genesee Regional Transportation Authority divided over five years.
  • The region will also receive a sizable portion of the billions devoted for the Drinking Water and Clean Water State Revolving Funds, including a $15 billion carve out within the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund to help replace 25,000 lead service lines in the City of Rochester.
  • $8.5 Billion to remove infrastructure barriers like the Inner Loop North and redevelop it to support existing residents and reverse the racial inequity and environmental injustice it caused.  ($7.5 billion for RAISE -formerly TIGER grant program and  $1 Billion for a new Reconnect Communities, with billions of dollars in further investment in these projects under consideration in the Build Back Better reconciliation bill)
  • New local hire program to connect local workers, especially from disadvantaged and underrepresented communities, to high-quality construction jobs on federally-funded transportation infrastructure projects.
  • $13.5 Billion which will help address New York’s crumbling bridge and road infrastructure, with $1.9 billion set aside exclusively for a new bridge replacement and repair program. Monroe County alone has 54 bridges rated in “poor” condition that are estimated to cost over $100 million to repair.
  • The inclusion of the Make PPE in America Act, allowing domestic textile manufacturers like Rochester’s Hickey Freeman access critical federal contracts to strengthen our domestic PPE supply chain and support local jobs.
  • $65 billion nationwide to help expand access to high-speed internet and broadband.
  • $1.2 billion for the Brownfields competitive grants.
  • $7.5 billion to build out a national network of EV chargers.
  • $3.5 billion national investment in weatherization which will reduce energy costs for families.