WASHINGTON — U.S. Representatives Bobby L. Rush (IL-01) and Cheri Bustos (D-17) introduced the Safe Drinking Water Act, a bill that would establish a $50 million grant program within EPA that would allow local education agencies and districts to replace lead service lines and lead solder used in school plumbing. This bill is a companion to an earlier bill Rush introduced that would provide grants to schools to replace older water tanks manufactured prior to 1988.
“As the Ranking Member of the Energy and Power Subcommittee on the Energy and Commerce Committee, Rep. Bustos and myself represent both Chicago and downstate Illinois within the two committees of jurisdiction over this issue,” said Rush. Rep. Bustos currently sits on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. “This is a problem that predates all of our tenures, but we understand how widespread this issue is and what resources are going to be needed to address it from the local, state, and federal levels to turn this issue around.”
Last month, Rush and Bustos hosted a fact-finding, informational water infrastructure listening session at Avalon Park field house in Chicago. The October session included members from the Chicago Mayor’s Office, Chicago Department of Public Health, Chicago Department of Water Management, Environment and Economy Subcommittee, Illinois EPA and the Illinois Public Water Supply. The discussion covered the issue of lead in schools, in parks, and other public entities. As a result of the discussion, Rush and Bustos introduced this legislation in order to address the needs of their constituencies. Avalon Park is significant due to the fact that Chicago Park District officials found some of the highest lead levels therein samples collected during the summer.
“I worked hard to secure several million dollars to replace lead pipes in one of our communities, however the problem of lead contamination in drinking water is widespread and must be addressed comprehensively,” said Congresswoman Cheri Bustos. “There is no safe level of lead, particularly for young children, so we cannot rest until every school has safe drinking water. I’m proud to partner with Congressman Rush as we work to solve this challenge to protect children in all of our communities.”
Lead in drinking water is a problem made prominent in the news with the situation in Flint, but one that is much more widespread, nationally. Not only is the nation seeing lead in drinking water fountains in schools in Chicago, but the problem is now creeping up in other areas such as in our parks.
Energy and Commerce Committee Ranking Member Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) stated, “This bill will provide essential funds to schools struggling to replace lead infrastructure to ensure safe drinking water for schoolchildren nationwide. I applaud Congressman Rush and Congresswoman Bustos for their continued dedication to ensuring access to safe drinking water.”