Bennet, Cardin, Colleagues Introduce Legislation to Reduce Exposure to Lead in Drinking Water

The Financing Lead Out of Water Act Allows Public Water Utilities to Issue Tax-Exempt Bonds to Fund Public and Private Lead Pipe Removal

Denver — Today, Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet led U.S. Senators Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), and Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) in introducing the Financing Lead Out of Water (FLOW) Act. The FLOW Act would reduce exposure to lead in old water pipes by making it easier for cities and utilities to issue bonds to finance replacement projects.

“No parent in America should worry about the water their kids drink,” said Bennet. “This bill would cut red tape to reduce some of the financial burdens that homeowners and families face when replacing their lead pipes. This bill draws on the experience and leadership of Denver Water, which has shown the rest of the country what’s possible by committing to replace every customer-owned lead pipe, especially in underserved neighborhoods. My hope is that the rest of the country can learn from our experience in Colorado and use our tax code to help eliminate lead pipes from their communities.”

“As long as lead pipes serve American homes, our children especially are not safe to satisfy life’s most basic need. In Maryland and across the nation, data shows that low-income families are disproportionately impacted by lead exposures,” said Cardin. “Our bill would break down the monumental task of replacing service lines for millions of homes by removing barriers to financing and facilitating incentives to get the job done.”

“Families shouldn’t have to worry about whether or not the water coming out of the faucet is safe for their children to drink,” said Brown. “Because of the work we did in the American Rescue Plan and Bipartisan Infrastructure Plan, Ohio communities will be able to replace old pipes, using American-made materials and installed by American workers, and the FLOW Act will ensure that these investments reach even more Ohioans.”

“Everyone should have access to safe, clean drinking water. Unfortunately, millions of Americans, especially those in low-income, Black and Brown communities, still have lead in their water pipes,” said Booker. “I’m proud to join my colleagues in reintroducing this legislation that will make it easier for homeowners to replace privately owned lead service lines and provide their families with safe drinking water.”

“Lead pipes are still in use in far too many of our communities. Many of them pose a daily threat to the health of everyone whose drinking water flows through them – but they are especially dangerous for our most vulnerable, including children and older adults. This bill will give local governments better access to resources they need to replace these pipes and bring cleaner water to our communities,” said Van Hollen.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, between 6 to 10 million homes in the U.S. currently have lead water pipes, also known as lead service lines, that connect the main water line located underground to their home’s internal plumbing system. Although public utilities across the country are replacing their publicly-owned lead service lines, replacement projects have moved slowly for privately-owned pipes serving residences due to the costly financial responsibility of replacing these lines.

The FLOW Act provides an explicit guarantee in the tax code to allow public water utilities to issue tax-exempt bonds to help pay for the removal and replacement of both the publicly- and privately-owned lead service lines, resolving the full scale of the issue for residents in areas with lead pipes. This bill also helps funds for lead pipe replacement from the American Rescue Plan Act and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law make a deeper impact on replacing the nation’s essential water infrastructure.

Bennet’s Financing Lead Out of Water (FLOW) Act draws on the experience of Denver Water, a public water utility that is financing the removal of all public and private lead service lines in its service area at no cost to its customers by issuing tax-exempt bonds. Denver Water found that issuing tax-exempt bonds for this purpose required a costly and time-consuming analysis of its service area as part of the ‘private business use test’ administered by the IRS to qualify for the tax exemption, adding months to its effort. The FLOW Act provides a solution to this issue for public water utilities.

This legislation would serve as another significant step forward in protecting public health. I commend Sen. Bennet on his extensive efforts to develop this legislation and his recognition of its importance to the nationwide work to eliminate exposure to lead in drinking water. The senator continues to be a leader on this critical issue and we thank him for his ongoing focus,” said Jim Lochhead, CEO of Denver Water.

“Fully removing lead service lines is a priority of many drinking water systems, but red tape from the IRS can slow down the process when the utility seeks to finance these critical infrastructure projects with tax-exempt bonds. Federal policy should make it easier, not harder, to fully replace lead service lines, so AMWA strongly supports the FLOW Act and we commend Senator Bennet for his commitment to this issue. We look forward to passage of this important legislation,” said Tom Dobbins, CEO of the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies.

“The FLOW Act is a commonsense policy that helps ensure all communities in Colorado can access safe and clean drinking water, especially our underserved communities who are disproportionately exposed to lead. The CO Water Resources and Power Development Authority fully supports Senator Bennet and his Senate colleagues’ work to remove burdensome hurdles to innovatively finance critical infrastructure projects,” said Keith McLaughlin, Executive Director of CWRPDA.

The bill text is available HERE. A one-page summary of the bill is available HERE.