During his first address to Congress on Wednesday, President Joe Biden spoke to a serious health concern spurred by aging infrastructure: Americans’ access to clean drinking water.
“Today, up to 10 million homes in America and more than 400,000 schools and child care centers have pipes with lead in them – including drinking water,” Biden said. “A clear and present danger to our children’s health.”
The issue hits hard, especially at home. Illinois has more lead service pipes than any other state in the nation, and Chicago has more than any U.S. city.
A major step in trying to correct that problem was taken by U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth, a Democrat from Illinois who chairs the Senate’s Environment & Public Works Subcommittee on Fisheries, Water & Wildlife, when she introduced the Drinking Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Act of 2021.
The bipartisan bill, which passed the Senate committee unanimously, invests more than $35 billion to update water infrastructure and improve drinking water quality across the country.
“The goal of this legislation is to provide as much federal funding as possible – there’ll be some local match,” Duckworth said. “But the goal is to replace 100% of the lead service pipelines in the country.”
Duckworth’s water infrastructure bill is currently up for debate on the Senate floor. If it passes, it will head to the House of Representatives.
Note: This story will be updated with video of our full interview with Duckworth.