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Rep. Tlaib leads clean drinking water tour: "We must move with urgency"

Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib speaking in front of a group of people
Malak Silmi
Michigan Radio

Detroit Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib is taking federal officials around to some Michigan communities to highlight the barriers to safe drinking water that some households face, particularly in communities with lots of lead service lines.

President Joe Biden’s infrastructure bill provided $15 billion for cities nationwide to remove lead service lines. But Tlaib said that only covers about a quarter of the estimated cost.

Sylvia Orduño of the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization said most cities have to rely on state and federal revolving fund loan dollars to pay for lead pipe replacement — a cost they pass on to customers.

“This affordability problem we’re been talking about for years is compounded by the infrastructure crisis, right?” Orduño said. “Makes it all the more long before we get the lead service lines out.”

Michigan’s 2018 Lead and Copper Rule requires cities to remove all lead service lines by 2041, unless they get a waiver. It also banned partial replacements, mandating that cities replace whole pipes right up into homes, except in emergencies.

But Tlaib, a Democrat, said before that rule took effect, some Michigan cities did partial replacements. She said that means many people now believe the problem was fixed, when it actually wasn’t.

“My folks are paying for dirty water that continues to increase in cost,” Tlaib said. “So layered on top of that, it’s just been overwhelming.”

Tlaib is a member of the U.S. House Get the Lead Out Caucus. Other Michigan members include fellow Democrat Debbie Dingell, and Republican Peter Meijer.

Tlaib spoke from one tour stop, Highland Park, on Friday. Other stops on the tour include Benton Harbor, Flint, Detroit, and Dearborn Heights.

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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