The U.S. Senate yesterday unanimously passed a bipartisan bill that strengthens and clarifies standards to protect people from toxic lead in drinking water by reducing the allowable lead content in drinking water pipes, pipe fittings and plumbing fixtures.
Though authored in the Senate by U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and in the House by Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, these new national standards arguably got their start right here in the East Bay. The East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD) sponsored identical legislation for California, enacted in 2006, and was among the many sponsors of this federal legislation as well.
EBMUD Governmental Affairs Manager and Special Assistant to the General Manager Randy Kanouse sent a memo to agency staffers yesterday congratulating them on the bill’s passage. “Generations of future children will lead healthier lives because of the foresight and the leadership of the East Bay Municipal Utility District Board of Directors,” he wrote.
“I am so pleased that the Senate has acted to pass this important piece of bipartisan legislation today that will help protect our children and families from dangerous lead,” Boxer, who chairs the Environment and Public Works Committee, said in a news release.
The Senate bill was cosponsored by U.S. Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., the ranking Republican on Boxer’s committee.
“It isn’t often that Senator Boxer and I agree on legislation,” said Inhofe, a renowned global warming skeptic who once said it’s “the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people” while Boxer has toiled constantly to curb it. “Yet in this case, we did. Here is an opportunity to pass a bill that will help further decrease the amount of lead in water without imposing a burden on America’s manufacturers.”
Lead can harm the nervous system and brain development, and is especially dangerous for pregnant women, infants and children. Current federal law allows plumbing fixtures that carry drinking water to have as much as 8 percent lead; this new bill says the wetted surface of such plumbing can’t contain more than a weighted average of 0.25 percent lead.
S. 3874 now goes to the House for consideration.
“In 21st century America, we have a responsibility to do more to protect our children and families against the lead exposure acquired through plumbing systems. Lead-free plumbing is an existing alternative, it’s affordable, and it’s time we adopt it across the nation,” Eshoo said yesterday. “California recognized the hazard lead poses and in 2006 enacted the toughest lead content standard for drinking water faucets, fittings, and plumbing systems anywhere in the world. This bill will eliminate the threat of lead in faucets and fixtures across the country.”
UPDATE @ 2:12 P.M.: The House has passed the bill on a 226-109 vote, sending it to the President’s desk to be signed into law.