“For every Lansing and Madison, there are thousands of other cities that simply have not kept up with the problem,” Erik Olson, health program director for the Natural Resources Defense Council, told The Post last year.
While the greatest concentration of lead service lines is in the Midwest, such pipes remain throughout the country. The American Water Works Association says the cost of replacing them could exceed $30 billion, and neither homeowners nor municipalities are eager to spend that money. But “as long as there are lead pipes in the ground or lead plumbing in homes, some risk remains,” David LaFrance, the group’s chief executive, told The Post. “As a society, we should seize this moment of increased awareness about lead risks to develop solutions for getting the lead out.”
How much the next White House might be inclined to help tackle the problem remains to be seen. President-elect Donald Trump has talked repeatedly about the need to invest in the nation’s infrastructure, though often he has focused on more-visible projects such as roads, bridges and airports.
Still, during his campaign, Trump pledged to make clean water “a high priority.” He proposed developing long-term water infrastructure plans with state and local officials, while tripling funding for revolving-loan programs to help state and local governments upgrade their drinking water and wastewater infrastructure.
As a candidate, Trump vowed to “ensure quality water all across America” and to provide “clean air and clean water for all of our people.”
But whether Congress will fund a massive infrastructure effort — and whether Trump’s commitment will stay strong — is a question mark.
In St. Joseph, a town of less than 1,200 that is perched along the Mississippi River, few people are waiting on help from Washington. Officials are both trying to get the lead out and to overhaul a system that has been deteriorating for years. Until that happens, residents will have to cook, bathe and drink only bottled water.
“The truth is, this should have been fixed years ago,” the new mayor, Elvadus Fields Jr., told the Advocate.
Fields recently unseated a four-term incumbent by a handful of votes, in an election that the paper said “revolved around anger about the continuing water crisis.”