RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) – The Virginia Health Department will receive $46 million in federal funding to replace lead water pipes across the state in an effort to address contamination in Commonwealth drinking water.
The funding, which is part of the infrastructure law passed last year, goes to the state’s Office of Drinking Water, which oversees health standards for the patchwork of local systems that provide water. water to Virginia households.
“Too many of our water systems were built with technologies that were good at the time, but now we realize they pose health risks to people,” said Senator Tim Kaine. .
The funding follows a water crisis in Jackson, Mississippi, where a sudden shutdown of the city’s water services exacerbated a longstanding lead contamination problem. There, the Republican state legislature has largely refused to lend assistance to the majority-black city, which faces billions in much-needed reparations to ease the crisis.
“As we have seen with the situation in Jackson, Mississippi, maintaining our water infrastructure is essential to the health and safety of our communities. We are pleased to see that these federal funds are being directed to necessary improvements infrastructure that will replace lead water systems in the Commonwealth,” Virginia Senators Tim Kaine and Mark Warner wrote in a joint statement.
According to the World Health Organization, there is no safe level of lead in drinking water, and even trace amounts can have serious consequences, especially with prolonged exposure. Bottled water must be below 5 parts per billion, while municipal water systems can have up to 15 ppb before being forced by federal law to act.
In Virginia, dozens of counties have water systems with lead above the 5 ppb threshold, with the highest number of affected residents living in West Virginia.
In Bedford County alone, more than 30,000 residents – more than a third of the population – were drinking potentially contaminated water.
The $46 million will be distributed to local governments through grants from the Office of Drinking Water. The recipients of these grants have not yet been announced.
“I don’t think that’s enough to solve the whole problem,” Kaine said. “But I think it’s going to help a number of local communities take a big step towards solving the problem.”