1 of 5 | President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and several Pennsylvania lawmakers will deliver remarks at the Belmont Water Treatment Plant in Philadelphia Friday to tout a $500 million investment to help the city remove lead pipes and update its aging water system. Photo by Yuri Gripas/UPI | License Photo
Feb. 3 (UPI) -- President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris will travel to Philadelphia Friday to announce $500 million in federal infrastructure funds to help fix the city's broken water system amid a nationwide effort to dismantle lead pipes.
Biden and Harris plan to join several Pennsylvania lawmakers at the Belmont Water Treatment Plant to tout the first $160 million investment in the city initiative that will be paid with funds allocated in the 2021 Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.
The money -- part of $15 billion set aside for loans and grants for states to remove lead service lines -- will be used to modernize Philadelphia's water facilities and infrastructure, but most importantly replace nearly 20 miles of lead pipes throughout the city.
The remainder of the $340 million project, to be paid through a loan from the Environmental Protection Agency, will make extensive water system improvements, with the first $19 million in financing set to replace about 160 lead service lines and 13 miles of water mains, according to a fact sheet released Friday by the White House.
The administration said it also plans to tap funds from the American Rescue Plan, and other Biden-era budget appropriations to pay for the wider initiative, with nearly $50 billion coming from the Infrastructure Law alone.
Prior to the latest funding, Pennsylvania had already received $240 million from Washington to provide clean and safe water across the state and improve water and wastewater infrastructure, the fact sheet noted.
Another 10 communities across Pennsylvania are taking part in a separate initiative by the EPA to educate public workers on lead pipe removal in an effort to accelerate the national cleanup.
"The massive investments in water improvements will also create new good paying jobs, including jobs that do not require a college degree," the White House said.
Since taking office, Biden has overseen the removal of more 100,000 lead service lines across the country, with another $1.2 billion in infrastructure funds already approved to launch dozens of similar initiatives in at least 23 states over the coming year. The government expects to spend $15 billion on the effort over the next five years.
The government's investment was expected to immediately benefit many disadvantaged communities across the country that have struggled for decades under aging water systems.
At least 6 million lead service lines exist throughout the country, according to estimates by the Environmental Protection Agency, while environmental groups say it's probably many more.
Millions of Americans risk ingesting lead, a powerful neurotoxin long known to cause irreversible organ and cognitive damage in children and adults, as a result of various common household activities involving water delivered through lead pipes.
The issue has become one of the administration's top priorities, with Harris often declaring, "people have the right to be able to drink clean water."
Last week the vice president hosted a summit at the White House where she announced a partnership with more than 100 state-level officials, water utilities, labor unions, and other private organizations committed to accelerating lead pipe replacement nationwide.
Biden and Harris will be joined at Friday's event by Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro, EPA administrator Michael Regan; and Democratic Sens. John Fetterman and Bob Casey.
After the ceremony, the president and Harris will attend the winter meeting of the Democratic National Committee.
Biden has also made stops this week in Baltimore and New York City to promote his mounting infrastructure projects, while hoping to score points with voters for delivering on tangible community improvements.