As Congress continues to negotiate infrastructure and social safety net bills, proponents of environmental justice say measures such as replacing lead pipes cannot wait.
Drinking water facilities for more than nine million homes across the country contain lead pipes where black, brown and low-income communities are disproportionately affected.
Mustafa Santiago Ali, vice president of environmental justice, climate and community revitalization at the National Wildlife Federation, said removing lead tubes benefits children’s health and educational outcomes, as exposure to lead is linked to children’s learning and reading difficulties.
“It also helps to raise values inside communities, property values, because we know that there is a huge wealth gap between black and brown communities and white communities,” Ali explained. “There are so many different positive things that can happen.”
Last month, environmental groups filed an emergency call with the Environmental Protection Agency for a free and safe supply of drinking water to Benton Harbor, a majority black community in southwestern Michigan. The city has reported extremely high lead levels in local water for three years.
Ali noted that the federal threshold for action is when lead is detected at a level above 15 parts per liter. Billion. In Benton Harbor, some water in homes has been tested with more than 800 parts per. He added the water crisis, just as what happened in Flint, is an example of disinvestment in a community.
“We have ‘victim zones’ throughout our country where people have made decisions to disinvest in certain areas,” Ali claimed. “And many times, these areas are our black and brown societies and indigenous societies, our white societies with lower prosperity sometimes. So we have a chance to change that dynamic.”
More than 60% of Americans in recent polls say they support $ 1 trillion legislation now in Congress to improve roads, bridges, broadband and other infrastructure, including funding for the replacement of lead pipes.
Originally published October 8, 2021 on the Michigan News Connection. It is shared here with permission.
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