Kingsley Association Community Center
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 

1:20 P.M. EST

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Can we hear it for Madam City Clerk?  (Applause.)  (Laughs.)

Good afternoon, Pittsburgh.  It’s so good to be back with you.  Please have a seat.  Thank you.

It is so good to be back in the City of Bridges.  I appreciate all of you and all the leaders who are here.

Again, I want to thank Madam City Clerk, Kimberly, for the introduction and for the ongoing conversation that we’ve been having. 

And her story is, sadly, the story of so many people, and it is the story that the President and I have been hearing in many places around our country.  And I know it is long overdue and it is time that we actually implement solutions, and I’m here to say we are.  And I thank all of the leaders here for being a part of that.

And I want to thank all of the leaders who are here, including Administrator Michael Regan. He’s doing an extraordinary job on behalf of our administration. He’s a bold leader of the EPA.

Representative Summer Lee, Representative Chris Deluzio, I want to thank you.  And then, of course, your two senators wanted to be here today.  And in their absence, I will say that Senator John Fetterman — I was just speaking with his wife, who is here — is a leader of profound strength and courage, and we are so grateful for his service. 

And in the United States Senate, many of you know, when I was a senator for the time I was there, I had the great joy and pleasure of working with Senator Bob Casey.  And I’ll tell you what you know.  I mean, I’ve seen him when the cameras are on and when they’re off, and he is always a fighter, fighting for the people of Pennsylvania and for the children of this state.  In fact, he played a critical role in securing the funds to remove every lead pipe in Pennsylvania. 

So, if we can applaud their leadership, please.  (Applause.)  Yes.

So, to all the other leaders who are also here — the parents, the grandparents, the advocates, the teachers, the community leaders — I thank you for the work you have done over so many years to make sure that this community — and, by extension, as a role model, many communities around our country — that they have access to, as Michael Regan said, one of the most basic and essential resources, which is clean water.  Clean water.

Can you believe that in the United States of America that is still not necessarily guaranteed to all people, to access to clean water? 

And so, I’m here today to announce some of the work that we have all been doing together over many years that is righting this wrong.  Because I think we all believe that every person in America has a right to clean water. 

And yet, today, across our nation, for far too many Americans, that right is under threat for a variety of reasons.  One being, of course, when we think about the climate crisis and how that has impacted people across the West — millions of people who have endured historic droughts. 

In fact, when I visited Lake Mead two years ago, the water level was at the lowest it had ever been.  And Lake Mead supplies clean water to 25 million people in California and Arizona and Nevada. 

Let’s think about what has been happening in the South, where even moderate flooding can overwhelm sewage systems and contaminate drinking water.  In fact, one woman I visited with told me that when her backyard floods, she can hear sewage flowing underneath her floorboards. 

And as a result, too many communities across the South, we have seen a rise in in- — infections like hookworm, which are basically — I see people nodding — tiny parasites that burrow into the skin and cause fever and nausea and abdominal pain.

So, this is a serious issue.  It is a serious issue with serious health implications.  Not to mention just basic points about what we need to do to — to address inequities. 

So, when the President and I took office, across our nation, we decided to deal with this.  We decided to deal with the fact that Americans in up to 10 million homes and children in thousands of schools and childcare facilities had to drink water coming out of lead pipes. 

Think about that and understand what it means: At school, our children were drinking water from fountains contaminated with lead.  At home, if they poured a glass of water from the kitchen sink or sat down for a home-cooked dinner prepared by loving hands but, sadly, using tap water from lead pipes, they were consuming, then, toxic water. 

Lead is a poison.  It stunts growth.  It causes damage to the brain.  It affects a child’s ability to learn. 

In fact, last year, I met a nine-year-old boy.  His name is Aidan — a young leader.  Aidan is healthy; he is full of energy.  But that was not always the case, because when Aiden was two years old, he was hospitalized for lead poisoning. 

His mother, Deanna, described to me how the lead poisoning caused Aiden to experience severe mood swings.  One minute, he’d be happy; the next minute, he was sobbing. 

His mother told me, as you can imagine, it was terrifying for her as a parent.  And, of course, no child should have to endure that.  No parent should have to endure that.

And I’ll tell the leaders here what you already know: For years, parents, grandparents, grandmothers, grandfathers, aunties and uncles, people in the community have been talking about this issue and have been demanding to be seen and be heard; demanding and saying, “Look, it does not require a scientist or a doctor to understand the impacts of lead pipes on the health of our children.”  And the voices of the community must be heard.

And let us also acknowledge that, while lead pipes were once standard in all communities, today, not all communities are impacted in the same way.  Because, of course, the folks who have extra resources — maybe they have equity in their home and they’re a homeowner — right? — maybe they have money in the bank account, maybe some savings.  Well, then they can pay to replace the lead pipes in their home.  But people in low-income communities or people who rent often cannot. 

And the President and I understand that this is — yes, it is an infrastructure matter, but it is also a public health matter.  It is also a public health matter.  (Applause.)

And one of the essential functions of government is to concern itself with the public health, which is why President Biden and I decided that we need to address this issue, understanding the public health crisis it can create, and then making sure that all people have access to what they need to be healthy, regardless of how much money they have in their back pocket.

So, we have invested billions of dollars to remove every lead pipe in our nation, including right here in Pittsburgh.  And today, I am proud to announce that President Biden and I are dedicating $5.8 billion in federal dollars — (applause) — to help remove lead pipes and to fund clean water projects across our country, which includes more than $200 million for Pennsylvania.

And I will tell you — (applause) — yes.  And — and as you heard, I was in Pittsburgh not very long ago, and when I was last here to speak with members of this community impacted by lead pipes, since that has happened — or since that meeting, we have now made investments that have resulted in this city being able to replace more than 3,000 lead pipes to the benefit of more than 10,000 people.  (Applause.)

And you are well on your way to replacing every lead pipe here in the next 24 months.  (Applause.)

So, today’s additional investment will help accelerate that work and it will also help upgrade other water infrastructure. 

So, here’s the deal: In Pennsylvania, many water mains that deliver water to a street or a neighborhood are over 100 years old.  So, old water mains are more likely to break or bust, especially when the temperatures drop.  Just a few weeks ago, in the Hill District, a water main burst and hundreds of people lost water for a full day.  

The $200 million now coming to Pennsylvania can be used to replace old water mains across the state and also could be used to upgrade storm drains and prevent floods during the heavy rains, like the floods that you saw in Downtown Pittsburgh just a few weeks ago.  (Applause.)  

So, when President Biden and I talk about why we do what we do, it is to deliver in a way that is about real results for real people.  It’s about understanding the constraints and the burdens that families face, that working people face for some basic things — like having access to clean water — and what we know we can do together to actually fix these longstanding problems. 

And in addition, part of the beauty of what we have all done together is these investments will create jobs — good-paying union jobs — (applause) — jobs for plumbers and pipefitters and laborers, jobs for the workers of Plumbers Local 27 here in Pittsburgh.  (Applause.) 

And it comes down to this: In the United States of America, every person should be able to have clean water.  I shouldn’t have to say that.  But it does come down to that.  Every person should have a right and the ability to have access to clean water, and it should not matter where you live or how much money you earn or how much money you’ve got in your back pocket. 

And with the help of all of the leaders here, we are building a future, then, where clean water will be a reality for all. 

And I thank you all for the work you do every day. 

May God bless you.  And may God bless the United States of America.  (Applause.)

Thank you.  Thank you.  Thank you. 

END                  1:31 P.M. EST

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