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House Energy & Commerce Committee to Hold Lead in Drinking Water Hearing and Status of Related Legislative Proposals

On April 13th, the Health and Environment & Economy Subcommittees of the House Energy & Commerce Committee are holding a joint hearing on the path forward, in the wake of the lead crisis in Flint, MI.  As signaled by Committee Chair Fred Upton (R-MI), the focus of the joint hearing is to be on the underlying causes, public health implications, and identifying solutions rather than finger pointing or assessing blame.  ASDWA’s President, June Swallow (RI) will be among those testifying.  The hearing (scheduled for 10AM eastern) should be available for remote viewing on the Committee’s website https://energycommerce.house.gov/.

In February, the House passed the Safe Drinking Water Act Improved Compliance Awareness Act.  Also referred to as the “Kildee-Upton bill,” the measure calls for early public notification of lead exceedances and requires EPA to step in should a state or water system fail to issue timely public notification.  It also calls for creation of a strategic plan for “…for how the Administrator, a State with primary enforcement responsibility, and owners and operators of public water systems shall conduct targeted outreach, education, technical assistance, and risk communication to populations affected by lead in a public water system, including dissemination of information…”

February was also an active month in the Senate for issues related to lead in drinking water.  Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) introduced four bills related to lead:

  • S 2583, the Firm, Unwavering National Dedication to Water (FUND) Act that reauthorizes both the DWSRF and CWSRF at significantly increased levels for FYs 17-21.
  • S 2586, the Thorough Evaluation of State Testing to Kick-start Investigations before Damage is Suffered (TEST KIDS) Act that requires quarterly reports from states to CDC on (among several things) the number of children less than two years old that have elevated blood lead levels. Requests only “such sums as may be necessary.”
  • S 2587, the Copper and Lead Evaluation and Reporting (CLEAR) Act that requires promulgation of a new lead and copper rule to set a health-based household action level. The measure also includes additional public notification; reports to health agencies; and removal of lead service lines under certain circumstances.  No identified funding source.
  • S 2588, the Grants and Education To Tackle Homeowner Exposure to Lead Ensuring America Drinks Only from Unpolluted Taps (GET THE LEAD OUT) Act that provides grants to eligible entities – community water systems, tribal systems, nontransient noncommunity water systems, a qualified nonprofit organization (as determined by the Administrator), and states, municipalities, interstates, or intermunicipal agencies – to reduce lead levels in drinking water through replacement of publicly owned lead service lines; identification of contributing conditions for increased lead levels; assistance to low-income homeowners to replace privately owned portions of service lines, pipes, fittings, or fixtures that contain lead; and consumer education. Authorizes $60 million for FYs 17-21.

Separately, funding-specific legislation for the city of Flint (sponsored by Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-MI) is still attached to the bipartisan energy reform bill (cosponsored by Committee Chair Lisa Murkowski, R-AK and Ranking Minority Member Cantwell, D-WA) has become stuck in the Energy & Natural Resources Committee.  Senators disagree as to whether the funding measure would fare better as a stand-alone measure or continue to be tied to the energy bill that has strong bipartisan support.