March 17, 2021

Duckworth Co-Chairs Hearing on Drinking Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Projects in U.S. Senate Environment & Public Works Committee


[WASHINGTON, D.C.] — U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Chair of the U.S. Senate Environment & Public Works’ (EPW) Subcommittee on Fisheries, Water & Wildlife—which has jurisdiction over the Safe Drinking Water Act and the Clean Water Act—co-led a joint hearing of the full Committee and the Subcommittee on the challenges facing drinking water and wastewater infrastructure projects. During this hearing, Duckworth discussed the importance of prioritizing water infrastructure as part of the Build Back Better effort and highlighted her priorities for a forthcoming water infrastructure bill, including the need to address environmental injustice in access to clean, safe drinking water. Video of the Senator’s opening remarks can be found here.

“Every American has a right to clean water—no matter their zip code, the color of their skin or the size of their income,” said Duckworth. “From permanent brain damage, to overflowing sewage and costly service interruptions, our constituents are now experiencing the harmful results of allowing our drinking water and wastewater systems to age into a state of disrepair. That is why modernizing and upgrading water infrastructure must be at the heart of the ongoing ‘Build Back Better’ efforts because not much will be better if we only fix our roads, but fail to repair and upgrade the pipes beneath them.”

As a member of EPW and as the Ranking Member of the Fisheries, Water and Wildlife Subcommittee last Congress, Senator Duckworth has long advocated for access to safe drinking water and she introduced the Great Lakes Water Protection Act to improve water quality in the Great Lakes and create a dedicated fund to help clean up sewage in the Great Lakes. In addition, she worked to integrate EPA water regulatory and critical water infrastructure programs into the America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018 which was passed into law. This bill improved drinking water and water quality, infrastructure investments, enhanced public health and quality of life with over 30 EPA mandated programs.

Senator Duckworth called on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to implement changes to improve drinking water safety at childcare facilities after a Government Accountability Office investigation revealed that among Head Start centers, only 26 percent reported testing facility drinking water for lead contamination, while an estimated 43 percent never tested facility drinking water for lead contamination and 31 percent did not know whether facility drinking water had ever been tested. She introduced the Get the Lead out of Military Housing Act to protect military families from the threat of lead poisoning in their homes and schools. Duckworth also re-introduced the National Opportunity for Lead Exposure Accountability and Deterrence (NO LEAD) Act to help ensure drinking water across our nation is safe from lead and copper contamination, as well as the bipartisan Get the Lead out of Assisted Housing Act to protect families living in assisted housing from lead found in drinking water.

As a co-founder of the Senate’s first-ever Environmental Justice Caucus, Duckworth has worked to raise awareness of the many environmental and pollution issues that have created public health challenges which disproportionately impact low income communities and communities of color. She worked to ensure provisions that improve water infrastructure equitably across the country were included in America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018 (AWIA), which was passed into law. She also helped to integrate these provisions in America’s Wastewater Infrastructure Act of 2020 and the Drinking Water Infrastructure Act of 2020 which passed through Committee last year. As Chair of the Subcommittee, she looks forward to incorporating policy and programmatic changes in order to better protect our most vulnerable communities from these environmental concerns in a future drinking water and wastewater infrastructure package.