WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris will host a summit at the White House on Friday to speed up the removal of lead pipes across America – an issue she has previously called a public health crisis.
Harris will be joined by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Michael Regan, along with other representatives from state and local government, water utilities, labor leaders, NGOs, and the private sector, a White House official said.
The White House has made removing every lead pipe within 10 years in the United States a centerpiece of its plan to address racial disparities and environmental issues in the wake of water contamination crises in recent years from Newark, New Jersey to Flint, Michigan.
The administration announced $15 billion in funding to remove such pipes as part of the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package President Joe Biden signed in November, 2021.
To date the administration has put in $5 billion of those funds in cities and towns across the country but millions of lead service lines still deliver water to schools, offices, homes and day care centers throughout the country.
Lead exposure can damage the brain and kidneys and interfere with red blood cells that carry oxygen to all parts of the body. It poses a particular danger to children, whose nervous systems are still developing.
The vice president will also send a letter on Friday to governors around the country to support the distribution of funding for the issue equitably, the White House official said.
Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, New Jersey, and Connecticut, along with cities, NGOs, labor unions, and private sector entities, will be announcing their support for the effort, the official said.
The summit is being held a year after Harris announced an action plan on the topic and traveled to several U.S. states since to talk about it.
Biden administration officials have previously said they did not have a time frame for replacing the millions of lead pipes but environmental groups have asked the EPA to set a deadline of 10 years.
(Reporting by Nandita Bose in Washington)
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