Durbin, Duckworth Announce Over $1 Million To Address Lead In Drinking Water At Illinois Schools And Child Care Facilities

CHICAGO – U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) today announced that Illinois will receive $1,192,000 to address lead in drinking water at schools and child care facilities through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Drinking Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Act (DWWIA), which Duckworth authored, included in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act

“As a nation, we bear the responsibility of nurturing and protecting our youngest citizens,” said Durbin.“Yet, we have witnessed the devastating consequences of neglecting the quality of their learning environments. With this funding, we persist in our mission to confront the lead crisis head-on by investing in the transformative power of prevention, ensuring every child has access to the clean, safe water they deserve and every family has peace of mind.”

“Building on my efforts in the House, I’m proud my Drinking Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Act in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law helped expand my Voluntary School and Child Care Lead Testing Grant Program to cover lead pipe removal and replacement so today’s new funding announcement could be possible,” said Duckworth. “All of our kids—no matter their race, income or zip code—deserves safe, clean and reliable drinking water, and I’ll keep doing everything I can to make sure the investments in my DWWIA law reach the most disadvantaged communities in our nation.” 

This funding is provided to states, territories, and Tribes through the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act (WIIN), which requires the use of guidance from EPA’s 3Ts (Training, Testing, and Taking Action) Program to support schools and child care facilities in making progress on reducing lead in drinking water.

Up to 10 million homes and 400,000 child care and education facilities nationwide are at risk of exposure to lead in tap water. In Illinois, the state reported more than 667,000 lead service lines (LSL), and another almost 820,000 service lines of unknown material. Replacing LSLs statewide is estimated to cost $11.6 billion. Exposure to lead is harmful to health, especially for young children. A dose of lead that would have little effect on an adult can have a significant effect on a child. In children, low levels of exposure have been linked to damage to the nervous system, learning disabilities, shorter stature, impaired hearing, and impaired formation and function of blood cells. Many effects are permanent. 

Following the 2016 report of lead in Chicago’s drinking water, Durbin and then-Rep. Duckworth urged EPA to use its full authority and resources to address the issue, including reviewing the Lead and Copper Rule (LCR) and immediate notification of lead contamination. In March 2021, Durbin and Duckworth sent a letter to EPA urging it to update the LCR. Durbin has supported additional funding for LSL replacement via the appropriations process.

As co-founder of the U.S. Senate’s Environmental Justice Caucus, improving water infrastructure in Illinois and across the country has been one of Duckworth’s top priorities. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which included Senator Duckworth’s DWWIA, is the most significant federal investment in water infrastructure in history, including $15 billion to replace lead service lines across the nation.