Dear Administrator Regan,
We write to you today regarding the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) upcoming Drinking Water Infrastructure Needs Survey and Assessment (DWINSA). Specifically, we urge EPA to expeditiously complete the DWINSA and ensure funding appropriated in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) for lead service line replacement (LSLR) is allocated to states based on lead service line burden.
Lead, which can leach into drinking water, is known to cause damage to the brain and kidneys and has a particularly negative impact on the growth and development of those organs in small children. According to an EPA estimate, our country has six to ten million lead service lines (LSLs), and far too many homes receive water that exceeds EPA's lead action level of 15 parts per billion. The water infrastructure in lower-income communities and communities of color is disproportionately high in lead piping, and these communities have a higher burden of lead exposure. Black and Latino children living in economically disadvantaged communities face disproportionately high levels of lead exposure nationally. We must upgrade our water systems and ensure that states and communities facing the highest levels of lead exposure have the robust funding they need to replace LSLs.
The bipartisan IIJA provides $55 billion to expand access to clean water across the country. The law allocates $11.7 billion to the general Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF) as well as $15 billion through the DWSRF specifically for LSLR. These investments in safe drinking water for communities around the country are truly historic and long overdue.
EPA's most recent DWINSA, completed in 2015, dictates each state's DWSRF allotment based on its assessed proportional share of capital drinking water infrastructure need. This assessment did not accurately evaluate each state's share of LSL burden. Congress amended the Safe Drinking Water Act in 2018 to require EPA to include LSLR cost in the next DWINSA, which EPA expects to release in early 2023.
According to two surveys sponsored by the American Water Works Association, the seven states with the greatest prevalence of LSLs had 52% of the nation's total. Yet, based on the 2015 DWINSA, EPA would only allot 18% of LSLR funding to those seven states bearing the majority of the LSL burden. Each year that EPA allocates LSLR funding based on the 2015 DWINSA results in the unjustifiable diversion of more than an estimated $1 billion in funding away from states bearing the greatest burdens, such as Illinois, Ohio, Michigan, New York, New Jersey, Missouri, Indiana, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Massachusetts, Iowa, Kansas, and Nebraska. It is imperative that EPA update the DWINSA to ensure the DWSRF funding is appropriately allocated and that states have the necessary resources to protect their communities from the dangers of lead exposure.
IIJA funding for LSLR must be fairly allocated to the areas of highest need and where the funding will have the biggest impact. We expect that allocating LSLR funding to states in accordance with the state's LSL burden would have the greatest impact and align with EPA's stated goals for implementing IIJA. Towards that end, we request that EPA expedite and complete the next DWINSA before allocating IIJA funding for Fiscal Year 2023 to ensure states receive adequate and equitable funding. As EPA knows well, a state's proportional share of general drinking water infrastructure needs is a poor proxy for the state's share of LSLR need. Therefore, we also urge EPA to separately allocate the $15 billion of LSLR funding within the DWSRF based specifically on the LSLR cost data that EPA is already required to collect as part of the next DWINSA.
Thank you for your consideration of our request and for the agency's continued work on this and other environmental health issues. We look forward to working together to ensure all communities have access to safe drinking water without fear of dangerous lead exposure. Should you have any questions about our request, please do not hesitate to reach out.