Biden visits Wilmington, unveils funding to replace lead water pipes

President Joe Biden gestures after speaking at the Wilmington Convention Center, Thursday, May 2, 2024, in Wilmington, N.C., as he announces his administration is providing states an additional $3 billion to replace lead pipes across the country. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

By Dylan Rhoney

May 3, 2024

The president announced $76 million in funding to replace lead pipes in North Carolina, and highlighted the administration’s efforts to eliminate PFAS chemicals that have devastated the Cape Fear Region.

President Joe Biden on Thursday visited Wilmington, where he announced that his administration has approved $76 million in infrastructure funding to replace lead pipes that could be contaminating North Carolinians’ drinking water.

“For generations, water was delivered through lead service pipelines, connecting the main waterline in the street to the homes and schools and businesses in this city and around the country. These lead lines are tough, durable, and they don’t rust. But we’ve long since learned, they leak poisonous toxins into our water. The science is clear: lead service lines pose severe health risks,” Biden said in his remarks at the Wilmington Convention Center.

The funding North Carolina will receive is part of a nationwide $3 billion funding effort by the administration to replace up to 1.7 million of the 9 million lead pipes across the country. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) believes around 300,000 of those 9 million lead pipes are in the Tar Heel State.

With this latest investment, North Carolina has now received $250 million to remove lead pipes as part of Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which the president signed into law in 2021.

The City of Wilmington is among the localities to have gotten funding from the law, receiving $4 million to help replace an estimated 325 lead pipes.

EPA Administrator Michael Regan, the former Secretary of the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality, traveled with the president to North Carolina. He said this is just the beginning of a long-term federal effort to remove all lead pipes.

“…We believe that we can get 100% lead pipe removal done within a 10-year window in this country,” Regan told reporters on Air Force One.

Wilmington and Cape Fear will benefit

Biden was introduced at Thursday’s event by Paris Pugh, a second grade teacher at Bradley Creek Elementary School in Wilmington.

“Recently, we discovered that one of our school’s water fountains was contaminated with lead. We swiftly resolved the issue, but no teacher or student should have to worry about their most basic needs, like access to clean water,” she said.

Pugh said that funding from the Biden administration helped resolve the issue.

“Funding from their American Rescue Plan helped to replace our water fountain,” she explained.

Sixty North Carolina communities benefited from the lead pipe removal funded by the American Rescue Plan, which Biden signed into law in 2021.

On Thursday, Biden explained how exposure to the toxins from lead pipes are especially harmful to children.

“In children especially, they stunt growth, slow learning, and cause lasting brain damage. But we know we can stop it. We know how to do it. One study shows, when you reduce lead exposure for children, their test scores actually improve in school…,” he said.

Eliminating toxic drinking water

In addition to replacing lead pipes, Biden also discussed his administration’s effort to tackle the PFAS crisis.

The Cape Fear region has long been plagued by toxic drinking water. In 2016, a study from NC State revealed that ‘forever chemicals’ like PFAS had been dumped into the Cape Fear River for decades from the Chemours plant in Fayetteville, even though the river is a source of water for 2 million North Carolinians.

RELATED: This town’s response to PFAS shows how government can work

“My administration issued its first ever PFAS standard to get those dangerous chemicals out of our drinking water… Communities across the Cape Fear Watershed know too well why this matters,” Biden said. “As a consequence of PFAS, you’ve seen aggressive cancers emerge in that area. It’s gone so far that we’re advising and warning, you can’t eat the fish in the same water that you drink.”

Meeting with families of the officers killed in Charlotte

Prior to his speech in Wilmington, Biden was in Charlotte earlier in the day, where he and Governor Roy Cooper met with the families of the four police officers killed in the city on Monday while attempting to serve a warrant. Eight others were wounded in the standoff.

“We pray for their loved ones and those left behind. I met their children, their wives, and their mothers and fathers. We pray for the recovery of the brave wounded as well,” Biden said. Every “time an officer puts on that shield and walks out the door, a family member wonders whether they’re going to get that call until they come home.”

Author

  • Dylan Rhoney

    Dylan Rhoney is an App State grad from Morganton who is passionate about travel, politics, history, and all things North Carolina. He lives in Raleigh.

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