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Rep. Engel Addresses Flint Water Crisis

Rep. Engel Addresses Flint Water Crisis

Washington D.C.– Congressman Eliot L. Engel, a senior member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said yesterday’s Subcommittee hearing on the Flint water crisis illuminated the need for greater investments in infrastructure and public health in order to ensure the safety of the general public.

“The crisis in Flint, Michigan is an inexcusable example of the human and economic price we pay when we put cost savings ahead of the safety and well-being of our nation,” Congressman Engel said. “This crisis shows that we cannot provide safe drinking water without investing in infrastructure and public health.”

According to the EPA, roughly 10 million American homes and buildings receive water from service lines that are at least partially lead, putting children at risk of stunted growth, brain damage and a lifetime of diminished potential. Many water systems are gradually replacing lead infrastructure as part of their ongoing maintenance, but as long as there are lead pipes in the ground, or lead plumbing in homes, some risk remains. 

The EPA projects it will cost $384 billion over the next 20 years just to maintain the nation’s existing drinking water infrastructure.  EPA’s estimate for New York State is $22 billion over the next 20 years, while the state’s projection puts the amount at $39 billion.   

The Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (SRF) finances projects necessary for protecting public health and compliance with drinking water standards. Last year in New York State, 95% of the submitted improvement projects to the Drinking Water SRF went unfunded due to overwhelming demand.

“Despite repeated efforts by House Democrats, the Drinking Water SRF has not been reauthorized since it expired in 2003. Reauthorization of and increased funding for this program is critical to ensuring the safety of our drinking water,” Engel said. “In addition, the CDC’s Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program, which funds lead poisoning prevention and surveillance activities, has been cut in recent years – from nearly $30 million in FY 2011 to $15 million in FY 2015. As a result, the Program’s surveillance is limited to 32 states and the District of Columbia. I’ve urged appropriators to fund this program at $35 million for FY 2017 so that its important work can continue nationwide and prevent additional children from falling victim to lead’s harmful effects.

“We also must strengthen state and federal programs to screen children for elevated blood lead levels, and ensure that lead-poisoned children receive appropriate medical and environmental interventions. Strengthening and promoting comprehensive coverage through Medicaid and CHIP, including universal lead screening and treatment, is an important part of the solution to protect our nation’s most vulnerable children.

“I will continue working with my colleagues in Congress to help the people of Flint recover from this crisis, and to invest in upgrading and replacing aging water systems around the country so that this tragedy is not repeated.”