In an interview on Tha God’s Honest Truth late last year, Vice President Kamala Harris highlighted lead pipes as a priority to tackle in 2022. Places like Jackson, Mississippi, and Benton Harbor, Michigan, both with predominately Black populations, have ongoing clean water problems. Harris also cited that half of the children under the age of six have detectable amounts of lead in their bloodstream, leading to many health and neurological problems down the road.
Within the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill, the Biden administration received $15 billion to fix all the lead pipes in America. According to NJ.Com, Vice President made a stop in New Jersey to participate in a roundtable with Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael Regan, Gov. Phil Murphy, and Newark Mayor Ras Baraka.
Together, they highlighted how successful the city of Newark has been in changing its lead pipes and improving the water supply. In 2019, Newark had a lead crisis where bottled water had to be handed out because the quality was terrible. Now, the replacement of 23,000 lines is almost done with no cost to citizens.
“Here in Newark the work that has been done is a function of the collaboration between community leaders, elected leaders, and public health leaders,” Harris told NJ Advance Media during an interview following an event at a Newark youth recreation center. “And it’s a role model for what we can do around the country when we maximize that cooperation.”
The funding for the project predated the bipartisan deal–kept afloat by $120 million in bonds authorized by Essex County Executive Joe DiVincenzo. New Jersey will receive $1 billion over the next five years to help cover the cost of replacing lead lines in other parts of the state. Vice President Harris wanted to highlight how well this could be done as she continues her “roadshow” noting her lead pipe replacement initiative.
“Mayor, I thank you,” Harris said. “This has been a long-standing issue and you came in and cut through red tape, made this a high priority and have now made it such a role model that the administrator and I have taken a road show to talk about the importance of removing lead from pipes and paint. We came here at the beginning of this tour to highlight what you have accomplished here in Newark as an example and a role model for what cities around our country are capable of doing.”