Ohio Organizations Seeking Endorsements for $1 Billion Request for Safer Water
A variety of Ohio, Regional, and National organizations, representing medical, environmental, housing, and community interests, are requesting $1 billion of the proposed more than $5 billion the state will receive in federal funding from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 to be dedicated to residential full lead service line replacements. Ohio is second in the nation for lead service lines at an estimated 650,000 lines. The American Medical Association and CDC have determined there is no safe level of lead in humans. Impacts to children exposed to lead include: neurological disorders, decreased cognitive behaviors, lower IQ, ADHD, and kidney disease. If you are involved in an organization that would like to support this request, please contact Kristy Meyer at email@example.com.
TO: Members of the General Assembly, Governor Mike DeWine, OBM
RE: American Rescue Plan Act Funding and Lead Service Line Replacements
Our organizations respectfully request that $1B of the proposed more than $5B the state will receive in federal funding for state and local aid from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, U.S. HB 1319, be dedicated to residential full lead service line replacements, both the public and private lead lines, across the State of Ohio. The $1B to replace full lead service lines should prioritize low-income neighborhoods within cities and rural communities in financial need. These funds would supplement H2Ohio funding that is being used to replace lead service lines and fixtures in daycares and schools, as well as any other water infrastructure funding from the American Rescue Plan Act.
A lead service line is a pipe made of lead that is used to distribute potable water, connecting a water main to a user’s residence. The United States used lead pipes as service lines for more than a century with most communities stopping the use of lead pipes in the 1950s. Unfortunately many of these pipes still are used today to deliver drinking water to residents across Ohio.
The American Medical Association and CDC has determined there is no safe level of lead in humans and unfortunately in 2019 approximately 3,500 children in Ohio had elevated levels of lead in their blood. Impacts to children exposed to lead include neurological disorders, decreased cognitive behaviors, lower IQ, ADHD, and kidney disease and failure later in life to name a few. A number of studies have also linked lead poisoning to behavioral issues, such as aggression in children and teens, and criminal behavior as adults. In a study undertaken by Princeton and Brown Universities, the researchers found that a one-unit increase in blood levels raised the probability of incarceration of boys by 47 percentage points, starting at 27 percent and rising to 74 percent.
Ohio is second in the nation for lead service lines at an estimated 650,000 lines. While the exact amount of funding needed for complete removal of lead service lines in Ohio is unclear, on the low end it can run approximately $2,400 a line and on the high end approximately $7,100 a line. Using these figures, full replacement could range from $1.56 B to $4.62 B over the next 20 years. In addition, Ohio has more than a $28 billion need in drinking water and wastewater infrastructure upgrades. Utilizing $1 B could replace hundreds of thousands of full lead service lines, ensure communities in Ohio are upgrading their antiquated water infrastructure, and create thousands of jobs.
Industry studies have indicated that every $1 billion invested in drinking water and wastewater infrastructure creates up to approximately 28,000 new jobs with average annual earnings of more than $50,000 and increases demand for products and services in other industries by more than $3 billion.
One billion dollars could make a big impact in Ohioans’ health and our economy by: Providing grants for full lead service line replacement, prioritizing low-income neighborhoods in cities and rural communities; Education and outreach funding for a local community group to educate residents about lead service lines and how to protect themselves from lead in water exposure, including providing an on-tap filter; and Supporting communities to inventory water service lines for lead.
In an effort to quantify impact and accountability, any locality receiving these funds should also report to the state how many lead service lines were replaced; geographic information detailing where lines were replaced and validating that areas with the greatest need were prioritized; the number of people educated on lead and how to protect themselves; and,the number of filters provided to residents.
Ohio can no longer afford to delay the removal and replacement of lead service lines. The longer we wait to replace these pipes the more costly it will become to our health and our economy. The cost of doing nothing is expensive and will impact social and health costs. Lead affects children’s development and IQ which potentially avails them to lower economic productivity and greater costs to the criminal justice system. In addition, according to the Environmental Defense Fund, every lead service line replaced yields an estimated $22,000 in reduced cardiovascular disease deaths. Given Ohio’s estimated 650,000 lead service lines, Ohio could save $14.3 billion due to reduced cardiovascular disease deaths.
For the health of Ohioans, particularly Ohio’s children and their future, and the future of our economy, we must be proactive to replace every lead line in Ohio.