WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) announced that several of his proposals to protect Ohio families from lead exposure were signed into law by President Obama as part of a water infrastructure package passed last weekend. Brown has been a strong supporter of federal funding to help prevent lead poisoning, monitor lead exposure in children, and eliminate lead hazards.
“No parent should have to worry that the water coming out of their faucets might be poisoning their children. Even a small amount of lead exposure can impair a child’s development and make learning more difficult,” Brown said. “That’s why it’s critical that we are taking proactive steps to upgrade our water infrastructure, test water in daycares and schools, and keep families informed if lead is found in the water supply. This law will help protect families and make our communities safer.”
The law includes:
The Lead Testing in School and Child Care Drinking Water Act of 2016: Brown cosponsored this bill, which will create a new federal grant program to help daycare centers and school districts test their drinking water for potential lead contamination. The law authorizes $20 million for this grant program through the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
A public notification requirement: The law includes a Brown proposal from a bill he introduced following water crises in Sebring, Ohio and Flint, Michigan that requires the EPA to automatically alert the public to lead contamination if the state or local agency responsible fails to do so in 15 days. Currently, local and state officials are responsible for notifying the public, which they failed to do in a timely manner in the cases of Sebring and Flint.
The Drinking Water Safety and Infrastructure Act: Brown is a cosponsor of this bill, which will provide federal aid to communities facing lead crises and help new ones from occurring. Many provisions from the law that would help Sebring and other communities in Ohio are included in the Water Infrastructure Investments for the Nation Act signed today:
- $20 million in credit subsidies for the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation (WIFIA) Fund with the goal of obligating at least $700 million in secured financing for water infrastructure projects across the country. All water systems are eligible for financing.
- $15 million annually for the next two years for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Fund, which develops programs, provides outreach to the public and health provider, supports research, and funds state programs to address and prevent childhood lead poisoning.
- $15 million annually for the next two years for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Healthy Start Initiative which provides assistance to pregnant women and new mothers by helping connect them with health care and other resources to foster healthy childhood development.
The law also includes $60 million annually for a new EPA grant program to reduce lead levels in drinking water through replacement of lead service lines, testing, planning, corrosion control, and public education. Applications from small and disadvantaged communities will receive priority access to funding. Additionally, the law includes $20 million for a new EPA grant program that will help small and disadvantaged communities comply with federal standards under the Safe Drinking Water Act. Brown supported this provision to help communities like Sebring, Ohio deal with aging infrastructure.