Singleton, Greenstein Seek Fairer Allocation Of Federal Lead Service Line Replacement Funding

TRENTON – New Jersey State Senators Troy Singleton and Linda Greenstein sent a letter this week to the Environmental Protection Agency stating their fierce opposition to the disproportionate funding New Jersey will receive for lead service line replacement. 

The text of the letter is below:

Dear Administrator Regan, 

We are writing to you today regarding the disproportionate allocation of funding appropriated from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) for the replacement of lead service lines. As the authors of New Jersey’s lead service line replacement law, as well as steadfast proponents for clean water, we strongly disagree with this allocation. 

A recent report from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) states that New Jersey will receive the second-lowest amount of money per lead pipe in the nation despite New Jersey’s higher share of the lead service line burden relative to other states.

As you know, exposure to drinking water contaminated with lead has been linked to a litany of negative health ailments, especially in children. These health ailments include learning disabilities, nervous system disorders, impaired growth, and damage to the brain and kidneys. For these reasons, it is critical that the $15 billion allocated specifically to lead service line replacement in the IIJA is distributed in such a way to maximize the impact in reducing levels of lead exposure nationwide.

The distribution of lead service lines throughout the country is notably unequal. Areas of the country that were developed earliest, before the dangers of lead were widely known, such as the Northeast and Midwest, have the vast majority of lead service lines in the United States. The American Water Works Association reported that the seven states with the greatest prevalence of lead service lines, including New Jersey, collectively have 52 percent of the nation’s total lead service lines. Under the reported distribution of lead service line replacement funding in the IIJA, though, these seven states would receive only 18 percent of the $15 billion allocated for replacement. 

Moreover, the NRDC estimates that there are up to 350,000 lead service lines in New Jersey, yet our State is only expected to receive $48,257,000 of IIJA funding or $138 per pipe. Nevada, meanwhile, is estimated to have only 5,200 lead service lines, yet it is expected to receive $32,777,000 or $6,303 per pipe. Hawaii is the most egregious example of this disparity, with a high estimate of 2,800 lead service lines and an expected allocation of $28,275,000, or $10,098 per pipe. If the $15 billion allocated in the IIJA for lead service line replacement is meant to be as impactful as possible, these disparities must be remedied in such a way that the most impacted states receive funding proportional to the number of pipes that need to be replaced.

The above disparities become even more concerning when the cost of replacing lead service lines is considered. In October 2019, the EPA released a report which found that the average cost for replacing a lead service line is $4,700 per line. Using this average, the EPA’s current allocation plan would pay Hawaii approximately $5,000 more per pipe than is actually needed. New Jersey though, bearing much more of the lead service line burden with 350,000 lead service lines, is left to pay over 97 percent of the cost of lead service line replacement on its own.

It is shocking that the reported plan for the distribution of these funds gives some states thousands of dollars per pipe in addition to fully covering replacement for all lead service lines, while the most impacted states are left to bear almost the entire cost of replacement themselves. Not only does this distribution lack equity, it also delays the transition away from lead service lines in the states most impacted by lead contamination and perpetuate the negative health consequences of lead that primarily impact the poorest communities in New Jersey and across the nation. 

Therefore, we urge you to reconsider the reported distribution of these funds and instead allocate the funds to states based solely on estimated lead service line burden. Allocating lead service line replacement funding to states based on their lead service line burdens would have the biggest impact in reducing lead contamination and best align with the stated goals of the IIJA and EPA.

Thank you for your consideration of our request. We look forward to your response and hope that we can work together to ensure that communities in New Jersey and across the nation have equal access to safe, clean drinking water without the potential of lead contamination. 

Most Sincerely,

Hon. Troy Singleton

Senate Majority Whip

Senator, 7th Legislative District

Hon. Linda Greenstein

Assistant Majority Leader

Senator, 14th Legislative District

Original Article