Remarks by Vice President Harris on the Biden-Harris Administration’s Historic Investments to Remove and Replace Lead Pipes
Community Empowerment Association
1:51 P.M. EDT
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Good afternoon, everyone. Good afternoon. Kim, I want to thank you for that. We had a wonderful conversation with Hanna, who I think is out here — there’s Hanna — and Gwendolyn. And I just want to thank the leaders here in Pittsburgh, in Pennsylvania, for the work that you’ve been doing on this issue.
I’m honored to be traveling with Secretary Marcia Fudge, with Administrator Michael Regan to highlight the work that is happening in local communities like Pittsburgh, which are models of what can and will happen around the country.
In large part, the work that we are doing is in response to the advocacy that has been coming out of leaders, like the leaders here in Pittsburgh, for years, who have been demanding that we prioritize this as an issue, have been demanding that we put the resources in that are reflective of a priority, and that we do the work in a way that is collaborative with local leaders, local elected officials, with community leaders, knowing that the work that we do together will have profound impact when we are coordinated.
So I want to thank everyone who was here for the work that you have been doing for years. We came to Pittsburgh to talk about you here in your backyard, but then to talk about you around the country as a model of what can be done around the country.
So, Secretary Fudge, Administrator Regan, I want to thank you for traveling with me. Congressman Lamb, thank you for your leadership. I’ve seen you and Congressman Doyle, the work that you do in Washington, D.C., representing the people of this district so, so well and so strongly. And again, Kim, thank you for that.
So, basically, we come at this issue from probably an obvious perspective, which is that we believe, the President — President Joe Biden and I, our administration — we all believe that all people have a right to be able to drink clean water, that all people have a right to breathe clean air.
So we approach this from that perspective, which is that we as a society and certainly as a government must ensure that that right is real and that it is protected.
On the issue, then, of lead pipes, we know that up to 10 million homes in our country have lead pipes that are feeding the water that flows in their home. We know that when it comes to lead paint, we’re looking at at least 24 million homes that have lead paint. And those are the numbers that have been reported.
One of the things that, Kim, that we talked about was there are plenty of folks who live in homes, whether they’re renters or owners, that may be unaware that there is lead in their paint or in the pipe.
And so, again, that highlights the importance of what’s happening here in Pittsburgh, which it is not only about addressing the issue in terms of amelioration and mitigation, but addressing the issue in terms of doing the first step, which is public education about the seriousness of the issue and the need, then, to address the harm that the issue creates. And to do that, what we must do as government and together, collectively, to allow homeowners to become aware if their paint contains lead or their pipes are flowing with lead, in terms of the water that then goes into their home.
So the work we are doing together includes public education; it includes speaking loudly about what we must do to let people know about their rights and about the harm.
So, the harm — let’s talk about that. We talked with, for example, Gwendolyn, who runs a childcare center, about the realities of lead poisoning that includes creating developmental issues for our children; learning disabilities can result from drinking toxic water. And it’s basically poison, when we talk about lead in water or in paint.
We have talked about what it means in terms of the harm to adults. It can increase blood pressure. It can decrease kidney function. These are real harms that are created because of the lead in paint or in pipes.
So then there is the issue that is about public education. And part of that is, again, about what we will do with the $50 billion that the President, that our administration, together with our Congress members — and these two Congress members, in particular — what we have done to put $50 billion into the amelioration of lead in paint and in pipes.
That money will go to a number of things: public education; it will go toward what the local governments can do to facilitate testing, at-home tests, things of that nature; and it will go to the removal, then, of lead pipes.
Let’s think about why this is important and why government has a responsibility here. Lead pipes existed in many communities. But the disparities exist when a particular community and the members of that community don’t have the personal resources, the private resources to remove the lead pipes.
So there are communities that have the resources, individuals that have the resources to do it on their own. But if you’re working three jobs, if you’re working minimum wage, if you’re barely getting by month to month, then you probably cannot afford the work that needs to get done to remove the lead. That’s where government has a responsibility to kick in and help put the resources in so that we can remove the lead, understanding there are three issues that are at play here.
One issue is the issue that is about equity. All people have a right to drink clean water. And so this should not be a function of how much money you have to pay to remove the lead from the pipes.
It is an issue of public health. We have talked about the damage to children, to adults, from drinking water that has lead.
And then, three, this is an education issue. This is literally an issue about the education of our children, because we know there’s a direct correlation between lead pipes and learning ability or disabilities based on the toxins that are present in that water.
So I am proud to be joined with these leaders. And I’m proud to be with you today to uplift the work that you are doing here in this community. I thank you for that work.
And again, this is a model of what we will be continuing to do around the country. And again, this is an example of where community leadership influences what happens at the highest levels of our government. And I do believe that, in that way, this is a success story in terms of the dedication and the commitment that we all have to getting this job done and seeing it through.
And here in Pittsburgh, you, I think, are ahead of your timelines in terms of what you expect to get done to meet your timeline goals.
And for the President and I, it is our full intention with our Lead Pipe and Paint Action Plan to remove all lead pipes within 10 years.
So with that, I thank you all, and let us continue to do the good work that we know will result in generational impact for the better.
Thank you. Thank you. (Applause.)
END 1:59 P.M. EDT