Kansas Congresswoman Sharice Davids touts federal funds for lead pipe replacement • Missouri Independent

A joint investigation by The Missouri Independent and the Midwest Newsroom

The locations of the top service lines appear to be something anyone would know, Congresswoman Sharice Davids said Thursday.

But as cities and counties grew in the US, Water utilities haven’t kept track of them all.

Now they must finally find her. The US Environmental Protection Agency’s updated lead and copper rule requires utilities to: Lead service line inventory through October 2024.

Lead pipes — and infrastructure in general — are things people don’t worry about until something goes wrong, Davids said.

“That’s why it’s so important that we think about these infrastructure investments now, so our children and grandchildren don’t look back 50 years from now and say…why didn’t they take stock?” said Davids, D-Kansas.

Davids met with officials from local water companies, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Kansas Department of Health and Environment Thursday to learn about local efforts to inventory and replace lead utility lines. And she visited the home of Jerry Land, a retired carter, in Olathe, where crews were just replacing his leading line of service.

For the past six months, The Missouri Independent and NPR’s Midwest Newsroom have been collaborating on one Series of stories dealing with the issue of high lead levels in children in Iowa, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska.

Since lead was phased out in gasoline and banned in new pipes and paint, lead poisoning in children has fallen sharply. But the The US has not mandated widespread lead elimination in the past Paint and pipes, the danger remains, especially in the homes of poor and minority families.

Lead is a dangerous neurotoxin, and according to the EPA, water accounts for about 20% of a child’s lead exposure.

U.S. Rep. Sharice Davids, left, speaks with Megan Spence, distribution compliance manager at Olathe, Thursday outside the home of Jerry Land (right), who recently had the city replace a lead pipe in his yard (Carlos Moreno/KCUR) .

The EPA banned new lead pipe in 1986, but never required utilities to take a thorough inventory of their lead pipe before a crisis. Utilities were rarely required to replace them under the federal lead and copper rule.

“It seems like the kind of thing where you’re like, ‘Oh, of course we would know,’ but with the way cities have evolved, sometimes our county just doesn’t have that information readily available ‘ said Davids.

Now the EPA requires utilities to find the lead lines — an estimated 5 to 10 million across the country — by 2024. And the bipartisan infrastructure bill passed by Congress last year earmarks $15 billion to replace them.

Davids worked on the bill as vice chair of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

She said local, state and federal officials have told her about efforts to publicize lead pipe replacements in hard-to-reach communities and the timeline for completing inventories, which are due in just over two years.

It’s unclear how many lead supply lines might remain in Kansas, but EPA Region VII water director Jeffery Robichaud estimated there were at least 150,000, meaning hundreds of thousands of Kansas could drink water from those pipes.

Work is already underway in Olathe to replace them.

Land’s 100-year-old home was one of the first in town to have its lead pipe replaced. Land has lived there since the mid-1990s, and before that the house belonged to his late wife.

The city sent a letter to land and other homeowners in Olathe’s disadvantaged communities notifying them of the lines, said Megan Spence, the city’s distribution compliance manager.

Land didn’t realize the lead line was there.

“I really didn’t know any other way,” Land said. “I didn’t really notice a difference until they told me there might be lead in it.”

He quickly agreed to have the lead line taken out. He said the city quickly removed it and replanted the grass, which they dug up a few days later.

“I was a little worried, so I said, ‘Yeah, I want it to come out.'”

Unleaded is a joint investigation by The Missouri Independent and NPR’s Midwest Newsroom investigating the problem of high lead levels in children in Iowa, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska.

Have a question for us or a story you’d like to share? E-mail: [email protected], [email protected] or [email protected]

You might also like

Comments are closed.