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Biden unveils $500 million funding to replace Philadelphia lead pipes

President Biden announced $500 million investment to improve Philadelphia's drinking water
President Biden announced $500 million investment to improve Philadelphia's drinking water 02:12

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, speaking Friday at the Belmont Water Treatment Plant in Philadelphia, announced $500 million in federal funding to repair aging lead pipes and upgrade the city's water system.

It's a multi-million dollar investment aimed to improve water infrastructure in the City of Philadelphia.

Not long after touching down at Philadelphia International Airport, Biden, Harris and other elected officials came together at the water plant in Wynnefield.

President Biden unveils $500 million funding to improve Philadelphia's water systems 36:09

"Every American deserves to be able to turn on their water tap or faucet," Biden said, "and be able to drink clean water. Through the infrastructure law, we're making historic investments to make sure that they can."

It's a $500 million investment in the city's future.

The Biden administration said the money will go toward water and lead pipe service upgrades in Philadelphia.

"Water is worth it," Charles Haas, a professor of environmental engineering at Drexel University, said. "Water is a very important public health protection."

It's part of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law focused on removing lead pipes and providing clean water across the country.


Here in Philadelphia, $160 million will replace 19 miles worth of lead pipes and upgrade water facilities.

Another $340 million comes in the form of an Environmental Protection Agency loan with $20 million going toward financing projects to replace 160 lead service lines and 13 miles of water mains.

Philadelphia Council member Curtis Jones Jr. says the investment continues the work already being done by the city to improve aging water infrastructure.

With inflation, the money helps keep everything on pace.

"23% of the water that we produce goes out in water main breaks," Jones said. "So this kind of infrastructure money coming to Philadelphia is going to be huge."

"You're not thinking you're facing Detroit or other municipalities that kick the can down the road so many years that that price tag is almost insurmountable to taxpayers locally," Jones added.

Haas notes about a third of the city's water supply comes from the Schuylkill River and the rest from the Delaware River.

"It's an old system," Haas said, "and large, old systems in the U.S. are challenged," Haas said. "Climate change is going to have an inexorable pressure both on drinking water and our wastewater."

President Biden addresses winter meeting of Democratic National Committee 02:04

The Drexel professor applauds the multi-million dollar investment.

Especially, he says, when planning, designing and construction to upgrade systems can take years.

"The earlier one starts," Haas said, "the earlier it can be finished."

Flora Cardoni with PennEnvironment believes lead water contamination is the biggest hurdle the city faces.

"Making this investment to actually tackling that problem is huge," Cardoni said, "and we're so happy they're here today to show they're not actually just talking the talk but they're actually delivering the dollars."

Cardoni hopes this announcement spawns investments in other areas for the city.

"There's much more we can do to improve our infrastructure clean up our air and water and protect our health nationwide," Cardoni said.

Both the Biden administration and city council add the multi-million dollar investment will also lead to new jobs in the area.

Philadelphia Water Department Commissioner Randy E. Hayman said, in part, "This represents the biggest investment in drinking water infrastructure in a generation, and we would not be able to do this work without this level of federal investment."  

New Democratic primary calendar?

The president and vice president were also in Philadelphia to address the winter meeting of the DNC, where there could be a big shake-up in the way Democrats choose presidential candidates.

Biden addressed the DNC at the Sheraton in the city. The area was heavily secured by Secret Service and the Philadelphia Police Department.

"America is back," Biden said, "and we are leading the world again."

President Biden And Vice President Harris Speak At DNC Winter Meeting In Philadelphia
President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris hold hands onstage after speaking at the Democratic National Committee winter meeting in Philadelphia. Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Biden arrived at the Sheraton on Friday night and spoke to a packed winter meeting.

The president said he ran to restore the soul of the nation, rebuild its backbone and unite the country.

"We are a democracy," Biden said. "You cannot govern without consensus. It's not possible. This is still the hardest thing to get done, but we can't give up. We need to come together as a nation."

Biden highlighted his accomplishments and looked toward the future.

"Are you with me?" Biden asked.

In the meantime, the DNC will take a deep dive into their presidential nominating calendar this weekend.


For more than 50 years, the road to the nomination has started with the Iowa caucus and New Hampshire's first-in-the-nation primary. Now, there could be a primary shakeup, moving the South Carolina primary to the front followed by New Hampshire and Nevada three days later.

Battlegrounds Georgia and Michigan would move up and Iowa would be pushed back.

The vote on the new calendar will take place on Saturday.

Biden made his way to his home in Delaware after his speech to the DNC.

Go Birds

Aside from a packed agenda Friday both in Wynnefield and Center City, the president also addressed what better than the Philadelphia Eagles and Super Bowl LVII. Biden said First Lady Dr. Jill Biden is a Philly girl.

"There is no way I can stand here today without saying, 'Go Eagles, fly Eagles fly," Biden said.

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