U.S. Reps. Mike Quigley (D-IL,5) and Tammy Duckworth (D-IL,8) introduced legislation in the House Thursday aimed at protecting America's drinking water supply from lead contamination.
The proposed legislation comes in the midst of the lead poisoning water crisis in Flint, Michigan, which is the subject of a congressional hearing being held today. Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy are testifying at the hearing.
"The Flint water crisis puts a tragic face to the human costs of valuing pennies saved over peoples' health, but it also highlights the urgent need to improve our nation's dilapidated public water infrastructure," Duckworth said in a statement. "Each day we delay these improvements risks the health of another child exposed to unsafe contaminants--not only in Flint but across the country. Reports suggest that nearly 80 percent of homes in Chicago are connected to lead service lines, but in many other cities and states we simply don't know how many children we're putting at risk. As a new mother, I won't sit on the sidelines while our children are poisoned--I'm proud to join Congressman Quigley to offer a comprehensive approach to making our drinking water safe for all Americans."
Duckworth's office provided the following information about the two bills she and Quigley have proposed:
The Copper and Lead Evaluation, Assessment and Reporting (CLEAR) Act of 2016, which would help protect Americans from being poisoned by their drinking water by codifying recent National Drinking Water Advisory Council recommendations in federal law and directing the EPA to improve reporting, testing and monitoring of lead and copper levels throughout the nation's water infrastructure.
The GET THE LEAD OUT Act, which would provide grants to reduce lead in community drinking water delivery systems and public drinking water supplies.
"The crisis in Flint has brought national attention to the threat of elevated lead levels in drinking water and the potential risks to children and families if left unnoticed," Quigley added. "Our bills aim to better protect the American public's drinking water supplies by focusing on common sense reforms to give Americans more information and better responses to hazards in their drinking water, as well as helping finance improvements to our aging water infrastructure. I am proud to join with Congresswoman Duckworth to protect drinking water for Chicagoans and Americans alike."
U.S. Sens. Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Ben Cardin (D-MD) introduced companion legislation in the Senate.
"The crisis in Flint has brought national attention to the threat of elevated levels of lead in drinking water and the danger that can be to children and families if left untreated," Durbin said. "In cities like Chicago where nearly 80 percent of homes are connected to pipes that contain lead, aging water infrastructure can pose serious risks to residents. Representatives Duckworth and Quigley are proposing common sense reforms to give Americans more information about the safety of their drinking water so they can take action."
UPDATE (2:08 p.m.): At today's House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder and EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy came under fire from lawmakers, including U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL,8).
Republicans at the hearing placed much of their attention on the EPA's handling of the crisis. Republicans called for McCarthy to step down, while Democrats said Snyder should resign.
During her remarks at the hearing, Duckworth took aim at both officials: "If the EPA administrator should do the courageous thing and resign, then so should the governor."
"The failures at every level of government in this disaster are alarming," Duckworth went on to say. "I don't think there's any debate at this point or any question that it is the Snyder administration's department of environmental quality that created this crisis in the first place. However, as a member from Illinois, and one of the states that falls under the EPA's Region 5 alongside Michigan, I'm also extremely troubled by how the EPA also failed in its duty to serve as the last line of defense for the children of Flint. And while the Flint crisis rightfully garnered the most attention lately, I'm deeply concerned that communities around this country are at similar risk."
She began to grill McCarthy during the hearing over the agency's response to the crisis.
"I'm not on your side in this," Duckworth told McCarthy. "I'm certainly not on the governor's side, I'm not on your side."
Here's video of the exchange between Duckworth and McCarthy: