EPA estimates that there are between 6 and 10 million lead service lines (LSL) in the United States. Lead is harmful to children and adults, causing behavioral and learning problems, low IQ, increased blood pressure, reproductive problems, and more. Scientists agree – there is no safe level of lead in blood. Eliminating lead in plumbing materials is a key step towards improving the health and safety of millions of Americans, many of them low-income. Northbridge is pleased to be part of the solution to eliminating LSL.
The 2021 Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) appropriates $15 billion over five years for Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF) programs to remove LSL. At Northbridge, we work with state SRF programs every day through our state engagements and national SRF workshops.
Using our deep knowledge of the DWSRF program, we have devised several creative options for states to maximize the funding that can be awarded as grants (or principal forgiveness loans). We are helping many states increase the amount of “free” funding that they can offer their disadvantaged and environmental justice communities for identifying and removing LSL.
Accessing the DWSRF program can be challenging for even the most seasoned municipalities. LSL removal projects are even more complicated because they take place on homeowners’ properties. Our work with state SRF programs like Illinois and Arkansas identified key areas to streamline the loan application process and remove pain points. These have included removing unnecessary requirements, simplifying the information needed to approve applications, and streamlining approvals. One of the states we worked with reduced their loan approval time by 85 percent! This work puts our state partners in a better position to meet these municipalities where they are and get them low-cost or free funding to eliminate LSL.
Last but not least, we are thrilled to be a part of the team on the Lead Service Line Replacement Accelerators. Through this innovative program, we will be working with two states to facilitate the use of the DWSRF to eliminate LSL and develop key strategies for other states throughout the country grappling with this massive health issue.
We are looking forward to seeing the progress that will be made to eliminate LSL in the next five years, and are excited to continue working with DWSRF programs and municipalities to help make this goal a reality.