Press Release

March 11, 2023
Cardin, Bennet, Colleagues Introduce Legislation to Reduce Exposure to Lead in Drinking Water
The Financing Lead Out of Water Act Allows Public Water Utilities to Issue Tax-Exempt Bonds to Fund Public and Private Lead Pipe Removal

WASHINGTON — U.S. Senators Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), with Senators Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) Friday introduced the Financing Lead Out of Water (FLOW) Act. The FLOW Act would reduce exposure to lead in old water pipes by making it easier for cities and utilities to issue bonds to finance replacement projects.

“As long as lead pipes serve American homes, our children especially are not safe to satisfy life’s most basic need. In Maryland and across the nation, data shows that low-income families are disproportionately impacted by lead exposures,” said Senator Cardin. “Our bill would break down the monumental task of replacing service lines for millions of homes by removing barriers to financing and facilitating incentives to get the job done.”

“No parent in America should worry about the water their kids drink,” said Senator Bennet. “This bill would cut red tape to reduce some of the financial burden that homeowners and families face when replacing their lead pipes. This bill draws on the experience and leadership of Denver Water, which has shown the rest of the country what’s possible by committing to replace every customer-owned lead pipe, especially in underserved neighborhoods. My hope is that the rest of the country can learn from our experience in Colorado and use our tax code to help eliminate lead pipes from their communities.”

“Families shouldn’t have to worry about whether or not the water coming out of the faucet is safe for their children to drink,” said Senator Brown. “Because of the work we did in the American Rescue Plan and Bipartisan Infrastructure Plan, Ohio communities will be able to replace old pipes, using American-made materials and installed by American workers, and the FLOW Act will ensure that these investments reach even more Ohioans.”

“Everyone should have access to safe, clean drinking water. Unfortunately, millions of Americans, especially those in low-income, Black and Brown communities, still have lead in their water pipes,” said Senator Booker. “I’m proud to join my colleagues in reintroducing this legislation that will make it easier for homeowners to replace privately owned lead service lines and provide their families with safe drinking water.”

“Lead pipes are still in use in far too many of our communities. Many of them pose a daily threat to the health of everyone whose drinking water flows through them – but they are especially dangerous for our most vulnerable, including children and older adults. This bill will give local governments better access to resources they need to replace these pipes and bring cleaner water to our communities,” said Senator Van Hollen.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, between 6 to 10 million homes in the U.S. currently have lead water pipes, also known as lead service lines, that connect the main water line located underground to their home’s internal plumbing system. Although public utilities across the country are replacing their publicly-owned lead service lines, replacement projects have moved slowly for privately-owned pipes serving residences due to the costly financial responsibility of replacing these lines.

The FLOW Act provides an explicit guarantee in the tax code to allow public water utilities to issue tax-exempt bonds to help pay for the removal and replacement of both the publicly- and privately-owned lead service lines, resolving the full scale of the issue for residents in areas with lead pipes. This bill also helps funds for lead pipe replacement from the American Rescue Plan Act and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law make a deeper impact on replacing the nation’s essential water infrastructure.

“Fully removing lead service lines is a priority of many drinking water systems, but red tape from the IRS can slow down the process when the utility seeks to finance these critical infrastructure projects with tax-exempt bonds. Federal policy should make it easier, not harder, to fully replace lead service lines, so AMWA strongly supports the FLOW Act and we commend Senator Bennet for his commitment to this issue. We look forward to passage of this important legislation,” said Tom Dobbins, CEO of the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies.

The bill text is available HERE.