EPA Administrator Michael Regan speaks to reporters following a tour of the aging St. Louis Water Treatment Plant on May 5. The EPA announced $7.4 billion in new funding for water projects Thursday. Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI | License Photo
Dec. 2 (UPI) -- The Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday announced $7.4 billion in funding for water projects across the country in one of the first big allocations under the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure deal.
The money is earmarked for addressing environmental problems such as lead in drinking water and high levels of contaminants such as PFAS, or "forever chemicals," the EPA said in a statement.
Nearly half of the funding to U.S. states will come as outright grants or forgivable loans, which the EPA said will "remove barriers" to investing in "essential water infrastructure in underserved communities across rural America and in urban centers."
The initial five-year funding is part of nearly $44 billion dedicated to the EPA's State Revolving Fund programs from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which President Joe Biden signed last month.
The $7.4 billion total includes $2.9 billion targeted for replacing lead pipes under a pledge made by Biden to replace all remaining lead pipes across the country. Another $866 million is earmarked to clean up PFAS and other contaminants.
"With President Biden's leadership and congressional action, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law has created a historic opportunity to correct longstanding environmental and economic injustices across America," EPA Administrator Michael Regan said.
"As leaders, we must seize this moment," he added. "Billions of dollars are about to start flowing to states and it is critical that EPA partners with states, Tribes, and territories to ensure the benefits of these investments are delivered in the most equitable way."
The move represents the "single largest investment in water infrastructure" in the history of the federal government, Regan told NBC News.
"This law's investment in water is nothing short of transformational," he said. "We're less than three weeks post the president signing this, and we're hitting the ground running."