Assembly approves measure to protect Californians from toxic lead water pipes

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – The California Convention today passed legislation protecting local residents by prohibiting the partial replacement of lead-corroded lead or galvanized utility lines, a hazardous activity the state currently allows.

Assemblymember Luz Rivas (D-San Fernando Valley) Assembly Bill 1931 also requires water systems to notify customers of possible lead exposure when replacing lines. And the bill guides the state Use part of its allocation from last year’s federal infrastructure law in order to fully finance the replacement of line services on customer properties. This year, the state will receive $249 million, and payouts could increase over the next five years.

“California will receive an unprecedented amount of funding from the bipartisan infrastructure bill,” Rivas said. “We must seize this historic opportunity by pegging these federal dollars to AB 1931, which prohibits problematic partial substitutions and requires important health safeguards. Now is the time to act boldly.”

“I’m proud to be working with the EWG, the Natural Resources Defense Council and CALPIRG on this critical piece of legislation,” she said. The groups sponsored the bill.

“Replacing lead plumbing is a welcome and much-needed effort to rid Californians’ drinking water of lead,” said Susan Little, EWG’s senior advocate for California government affairs. “AB 1931 ensures that water systems meet health protection requirements when removing or disturbing a lead line. It will also ensure that work is carried out with vital health protection measures in place.”

Lead water pipes have been used in hundreds of cities, most commonly in water pipes installed before the 1930s, and are a major source of lead exposure in drinking water.

AB 1931 prohibits water utilities from replacing only part of a lead supply pipe, which may include lead pipe or fittings under streets, and any lead-based or galvanized pipe attached to a lead pipe connected to a house. Partial replacement does not reduce lead in drinking water and causes spikes in lead levels, so their ban is critical to public health.

The bill also includes key consumer protections, such as notifying residents prior to lead pipe replacements, providing filters that remove lead from tap water, and testing water for lead levels before and after full pipe replacements. It also requires that municipal water systems make an accurate inventory of all known mains services in use.

There is no safe level of exposure to lead, a powerful neurotoxin that can cause brain damage and lowered IQ, among other health problems. Because of their developing bodies, babies and young children under the age of 6 are particularly vulnerable to the effects of lead.

A recent study showed that even at very low levels, any early life exposure to lead, regardless of the source, increases the likelihood of being charged with juvenile delinquency. The number of such complaints increased with increasing blood lead levels in early life.

“Lead is highly toxic, especially to children,” said Jenn Engstrom, CALPIRG state director. “To ensure safe drinking water for our communities, we must make the best use of our drinking water systems.”

“We applaud the California Assembly for the Advancement of AB 1931 directing federal funds to help families remove all lead piping and hardware on their property,” she said.

The bipartisan infrastructure bill signed by President Joe Biden in November will provide $15 billion nationwide to remove lead utility lines that provide drinking water to homes, businesses and schools. The law pays for full replacement of lead pipe and full replacement of galvanized pipe attached to lead fittings.

AB 1931, California’s State Water Resources Control Board directs that federal funds be used to create a grant program to fund consumer lead pipe replacements. About 550,000 galvanized pipes could be, or could have been, attached to lead fittings in California.

“This law will help ensure that California spends federal funding on plumbing to remove lead from drinking water statewide,” said NRDC attorney Corinne Bell. “There is still so much work to be done, but AB 1931 is officially beginning a conscious conversation about protecting communities from lead.”


The Environmental Working Group is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that empowers people to live healthier lives in a healthier environment. Through research, advocacy and unique educational tools, EWG advances consumer choice and citizenship.

CALPIRG, the California Public Interest Research Group, is a statewide nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting public health and consumers. Learn more at

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) works to protect the earth—its people, its plants and animals, and the natural systems on which all life depends. We believe that the children of the world should inherit a planet that nurtures them as it nurtured us. NRDC works to ensure the rights of all people to air, water and wilderness and to prevent special interests from undermining public interests.

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