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Vice President Kamala Harris visits Pittsburgh to announce nearly $6 billion for clean drinking water infrastructure nationwide

Vice President Kamala Harris visits Pittsburgh, promising more money to replace lead pipes
Vice President Kamala Harris visits Pittsburgh, promising more money to replace lead pipes 03:07

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- Vice President Kamala Harris visited Pittsburgh on Tuesday to announce nearly $6 billion in funding for clean water infrastructure nationwide. 

At the Kingsley Association Community Center on Tuesday afternoon, Harris joined EPA Administrator Michael Regan to announce $5.8 billion worth of funding for every state in the country. The vice president said Pennsylvania will get about $200 million. 

Over 2 million Americans live without running water and tens of millions lack access to safe and reliable drinking water and sanitation, the Biden administration said. 

"Can you believe that in the United States of America that is still not necessarily guaranteed to all people, to access clean water?" Harris said.  

Nine million homes, daycares and businesses get their water through toxic lead pipes, the Biden administration said. 

"At school, our children were drinking water from fountains contaminated with lead. At home, if they poured a glass of water from the kitchen sink or sat down for a homecooked dinner prepared by loving hands but sadly prepared using water from lead pipes, they were consuming toxic water," Harris said. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says no safe blood lead level in children has been identified, and even low levels of lead have been shown to negatively affect a child's intelligence, ability to pay attention and academic achievement. Harris told the story of a 9-year-old boy she met who was hospitalized with lead poisoning at 2 years old. His mom said he experienced severe mood swings and it was "terrifying." 

In addition to removing lead pipes, Harris said this money will also be used to replace hundred-year-old water mains throughout the region. 

"Old water mains are more likely to break or bust, especially when the temperatures drop. Just a few weeks ago in the Hill District, a water main burst and hundreds of people lost water for a full day. The $200 million now coming to Pennsylvania can be used to replace old water mains across the state and also be used to upgrade the storm drains and prevent floods during the heavy rains," Harris said. 

In this political year, it's no surprise that Harris would tout the administration's success, noting that locally, "These investments will create jobs, good paying union jobs – jobs for plumbers and pipefitters and laborers."

The politics of these visits is also reflected by the crowd in attendance. The crowd Tuesday was largely African American, a key constituency for Democrats with Congresswoman Summer Lee focused on environmental racism and environmental justice.

"We know that if you're Black or you're Brown or you're poor in this country, it's still a sad reality that you're more likely to grow up in an environmental justice community just like mine," Lee said. 

The Biden administration said the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law invests a total of over $50 billion to upgrade America's water infrastructure.

"Together we will propel great cities like Pittsburgh into the future with safer, healthier and more resilient water infrastructure," said Regan. 

Vice President Kamala Harris visits Pittsburgh to push lead pipe replacements and politics 02:48

Replacing lead pipes in Pittsburgh

According to the EPA, Pennsylvania has more than 700,000 lead water lines still in use, the fourth-highest of any state in the country. 

The Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority has pledged to remove all lead pipes from its network by 2026 -- a goal they are more than halfway through achieving and on track to complete. 

Pennsylvania has received over $650 million in funding for clean water initiatives through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which was passed and signed into law in 2021.

Last month, Governor Shapiro announced a $194 million investment into 28 projects across 20 different counties focused on wastewater and stormwater.

One of those projects led to the PWSA receiving a nearly $14 million grant and and an $18 million loan to replace lead water lines in Millvale, Mt. Washington, South Side Slopes, Garfield, Lawrenceville, the North Side, Manchester, Perry North, Perry South and Spring Hill. 

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