Last week, Vermont Independent Senator Jim Jeffords and Maryland Democratic Senator Paul Sarbanes introduced a long-awaited bill that would help clean up lead contamination in the nation’s drinking water. Meanwhile, a group of Democratic representatives introduced a companion bill in the House.
The legislation, “Lead Free Drinking Water Act of 2004,” would require the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to review and strengthen the rules for lead in drinking water within 18 months, speed up the replacement of lead service lines, overhaul and strengthen public notice and public education requirements, and require water systems with lead problems to provide certified water filters to remove high lead levels while they work on long-term solutions. The bill also would tighten water testing and treatment requirements, clamp down on lead-containing faucets and fixtures (dropping allowable lead levels from eight percent to 0.2 percent), strengthen lead testing in schools, and authorize $200 million per year to help cities replace lead service lines.
“This bill would go a long way to protect our children from the scourge of lead contamination, which can damage their developing brains and lead to lower intelligence and other health problems,” said Natural Resources Defense Council Senior Attorney Erik Olson. “Given the extent of lead contamination in Washington, Boston and other cities, and the slow and woefully inadequate EPA response, it is time for Congress to step forward to safeguard our children.”