Skip to content


Across Upstate NY, Communities Have Experienced Decades Of Underinvestment And Lax Regulation Of Water Infrastructure, Especially When It Comes To Lead Contamination; New Senate Bill Will Tackle Lead Problem Head On

Schumer-Supported Bill Would Create New Grants, Loans And Tax Credits, Investing Over $70 Billion Over The Next 10 Years Into Water Infrastructure And Lead Relief Programs; Creating Hundreds of Jobs In NY

Schumer:  It’s Time Congress Shows True LEADership In Protecting Our Drinking Water

During a conference call with reporters, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today announced new legislation that recommits the federal government to its role in protecting our drinking water by fully investing in water infrastructure projects and lead remediation, while strengthening drinking water protections by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Schumer said the True LEADership Act of 2016, is a bold, comprehensive new plan that will address the scourge of lead-laden water and housing across Upstate New York and improve our nation’s water infrastructure, while creating hundreds of new clean water jobs in New York. This new legislation, through a combination of loans, grants and tax credits, would inject over $70 billion over the next ten years in water infrastructure and lead relief programs.

“Lead poisoning is an irreversible, preventable tragedy that robs many families and children of their future and we can no longer sit back and watch as New Yorkers live with hazardous lead paint in their walls and water,” said Sen. ?Schumer. “That’s why I’m pushing my colleagues in Congress to pass the True LEADership Act of 2016. This bill is common sense legislation that can drastically reduce exposure our children now have to lead poisoning threats.”

Schumer said that the Flint water crisis, as well as the discovery of high levels of lead in the City of Ithaca and communities across Upstate NY, have underscored the need for the federal government to better invest in and protect local water supplies and infrastructure. Schumer said the scourge of lead-contaminated water and housing units in New York State could be just the tip of the iceberg, as the U.S. has suffered from decades of underinvestment and lax regulation of water and housing infrastructure, especially when it comes to lead contamination. 

Schumer said that, while progress has been made in New York to combat the problem, lead poisoning still remains a big problem. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), lead is much more harmful to children than adults because it can affect children’s developing nerves and brains. According to the National Center for Healthy Housing, childhood exposure to lead has lifelong consequences, including decreased IQ and cognitive function, developmental delays and behavioral problems. Very high levels of lead exposure can cause seizures, coma and even death. Some health organizations, like the National Center for Environmental Health in a 2012 study, argue that no safe blood-lead threshold in children has yet been identified.

According to New York State data in 2000, 42 percent of homes in New York were built before 1950, when using lead paint was commonly used, and could therefore contain lead. Lead paint was not banned until 1978. Second, many schools across Upstate NY could contain lead pipes because they were built before 1986, when these particular pipes were banned. In addition, because school districts serviced by a public municipal water source are not required to complete lead testing of the plumbing fixtures and pipes that could contain lead – unlike districts serviced by private well water – many more children could be exposed to lead contamination. Schumer said these statistics underscore the continued need to bolster lead hazard abatement efforts in both homes and schools across New York State.

According to the 2014 Children’s Blood Lead Surveillance Data compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 8.3 percent – 2,335 of the 27,934 – children tested for lead poisoning in Upstate NY were diagnosed with blood-lead levels above 5 micrograms per deciliter:

  • ·         In the Capital Region, 358 children – approximately 10.2% – tested positive for lead poisoning.
  • ·         In Central New York, 467 children – approximately 12.1% – tested positive for lead poisoning.
  • ·         In Western New York, 585 children – approximately 13.0% – tested positive for lead poisoning.
  • ·         In the Rochester-Finger Lakes, 329 children – approximately 8.8% – tested positive for lead poisoning.
  • ·         In the Southern Tier, 138 children – approximately 8.2% – tested positive for lead poisoning.
  • ·         In the Hudson Valley, 360 children – approximately 3.9% – tested positive for lead poisoning.
  • ·         In the North Country, 98 children – approximately 7.0% – tested positive for lead poisoning.

Schumer is announcing new legislation that would address this issue by improving our nation’s water infrastructure, while also creating thousands of new clean water jobs. This new legislation, through a combination of loans, grants and tax credits, would inject more than $70 billion over the next 10 years into water infrastructure and lead relief programs, aimed at:

  • ·         Increasing investments in our water infrastructure, particularly through a new grant program specifically designed for projects that reduce lead in tap water
  • ·         Establishing a mandatory, nationwide requirement for states to report elevated levels of lead in children
  • ·         Establishing mandatory testing and notification of lead in water systems
  • ·         Making key reforms to HUD authorities and creates a new tax credit for homeowners to remove lead
  • ·         Creating a new grant program for schools to test for lead and aid children with the after effects of lead poisoning
  • ·         Accelerating development of new water technologies

This legislative package includes two provisions Schumer has fought for – including funding for schools to test their water, and tax credits for lead abatement in homes. Specifically, this bill would create a new $100 million federal grant program through the EPA that would help school districts across the country test their drinking water for potential lead contamination. It also includes the Home Lead Safety Tax Credit Act of 2016, which provides federal tax credits to help homeowners and communities get lead out of their housing units.

A full summary of the bill and the bill text are attached.