Lead is one of the most harmful pollutants we face in the environment every day in terms of our health, especially that of children. Health experts who have studied lead agree with a sobering message – there is no safe level of exposure.
One of the biggest challenges is that lead is often invisible and its effects are hard to detect in the short term. Even at lower levels that do not cause obvious symptoms, lead can cause widespread progressive and irreversible damage, especially in children. This includes damage to brain development, leading to increased antisocial behavior and lower IQ, attention span, and educational attainment.
Exposure can also cause anemia, high blood pressure, and damage to the kidneys, immune system, and reproductive organs.
Lead also persists in the environment. Many of us ingest lead on a daily basis, including from tap water leaching from pipes and solder in old wiring and fixtures that connect our homes to water mains.
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While we have known about these risks for decades, and the Safe Drinking Water Act requires our water systems to take steps to reduce lead levels, our taps still have measurable lead levels, especially in buildings constructed before 1950 area of properties and houses.
Colorado is no exception. Despite recent active work by Denver Water and suppliers in places like Greeley, Grand Junction, and Pueblo, there are still approximately 80,000-90,000 lead pipes connected to taps in Colorado homes, schools, and children. Nursing centers and businesses.
A recent national study found that lead was detected in the blood of 72 percent of children under age 6 in Colorado, well above the national rate of 51 percent. These effects tend to be more pronounced in minority and disadvantaged communities.
Meeting this challenge is long overdue. Over the past few decades, we’ve removed lead from gasoline, banned its use in paints and consumer products, and developed a wealth of science about its toxic effects. By 2022, there should be no lead in the water we use to make macaroni and cheese, soup and hot chocolate, or the bottles our kids carry to school and soccer practice.
The Biden administration and the Environmental Protection Agency are committed to eliminating lead from our drinking water once and for all. In Colorado, we are focused on achieving this goal with unprecedented funding through our bipartisan Infrastructure Act, which provides the Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment and its partners with substantial funding for five years to promote Advances in clean water are in our cities, suburbs and rural areas. These projects will ensure important and much-needed investments in our drinking water and wastewater systems.
It’s hard to overstate what this funding will achieve. This year alone, the Infrastructure Act has provided more than $120 million in funding for Colorado’s drinking water system, including $55 million to allow utilities to replace homeowner cost-sharing and provide 100 percent of replacement wiring costs. main project.
EPA officials and the Biden administration have described the resources as “game-changing,” “transformative,” and “the largest ever investment in water.” Projects authorized under the new law will create jobs in every corner of the state and modernize and expand clean water infrastructure—treatment technology, lagoons, pumps, filters, pipes, basins, valves, and nuts to go with them and bolts.
While the opportunities before us are enormous, the hard work is just beginning. These funds mean little until the contractors and workers in our community who remove and replace lead pipes.
Over the next few months, EPA will work with our partners to quickly deliver these resources to where they are most needed, including where people face lead exposure from other sources, such as old household paint and past mining and Soil contaminated by industrial activities. We will ensure that vulnerable communities are prioritized, inventory is completed, application and contract processes are streamlined, and the skilled workers needed to do these jobs are sourced and trained.
The bipartisan infrastructure law is a transformational moment for Colorado. Together, we have the opportunity to remove lead from drinking water once and for all.
Making its potential a reality requires hard work, planning and coordination. This work starts with each of us and an awareness of how to ensure and maintain clean water. If you have lead concerns or questions, please contact EPA at R8EISC@epa.gov or ask your water provider for a list and plans for lead service line removal projects in your community.
EPA’s efforts to eliminate lead from drinking water are just one part of a larger national lead strategy. Learn more: www.epa.gov/lead/draft-strategy-reduce-lead-exposures-and-disparities-us-communities.
KC Becker of Boulder is the Regional Administrator for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which includes Colorado, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming and 28 tribal states.
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