Press Release

Gillibrand Visits Buffalo Highlighting Historic Federal Investment In Lead Pipe Removal

Jul 29, 2022

Today, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand visited Buffalo to participate in a roundtable discussion with community leaders at Northland Workforce Training Center about the implementation of major infrastructure funding secured in the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA). Following the roundtable, Senator Gillibrand held a press conference at a lead pipe removal site to discuss funding for lead pipe replacement in the IIJA. Lead is commonly found in older homes and buildings and in areas with aging water supplies, and exposure causes a variety of serious health and developmental issues, particularly in pregnant women and young children. Buffalo has about 100 miles of lead pipes, putting thousands of children and families at risk of heavy metal poisoning. The IIJA includes $2.6 billion in federal funding to help improve water infrastructure and replace the roughly 360,000 lead service pipes across New York State. Senator Gillibrand was joined by Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown, Congressman Brian Higgins, Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes, State Senator Tim Kennedy, Assemblymember Bill Conrad, Assemblymember Karen McMahon, County Executive PJ Wendel, Lockport Mayor Michelle Roman, Dunkirk Mayor Willie Rosas, Jamestown Mayor Eddie Sundquist, and Tonawanda Mayor John White, as well as other local community leaders.

“New Yorkers have the right to expect clean and safe water when they turn on their faucets,” said Senator Gillibrand. “But in Buffalo, lead contamination is still widespread, putting residents at risk of kidney damage, brain damage, miscarriage, and a number of other devastating health problems. We have to do more to keep our communities safe. That’s why I’m proud to be delivering $2.6 billion in federal funding to improve water infrastructure in our state and get hazardous lead pipes out of New York’s homes, schools, and workplaces. This is a historic investment in our aging infrastructure and in the health and well-being of our most vulnerable. I’ll keep fighting to bring federal dollars home to New York and revitalize our neighborhoods.”

Mayor Brown and the Common Council already dedicated $10 million of their $331 federal allocation under the American Rescue Plan to the ROLL program.  Now the federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Law is making more federal resources available; New York will get more than $115 million for lead pipes each year, and local communities can access this money by applying by August 31,” said Congressman Brian Higgins.

“Lead is known to poison children, causing debilitating neurological damage and limiting their potential. Sadly, every single child lead poisoning case responded to by our county’s Department of Health is preventable,” said Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz. “Erie County is committed to continuing our work with local partners like the Buffalo & Erie County Lead Safe Task Force to educate residents and property owners on lead poisoning’s devastating effects. Together with state and federal support we can protect our community’s youngest members from this insidious toxin,” said Dr. Gale Burstein, Erie County Health Commissioner.

“I thank Senator Gillibrand for coming to Western New York to raise awareness about the importance of replacing lead pipes in homes across the country,” said PJ Wendel, Chautauqua County Executive. “Chautauqua County is committed to reducing lead exposure in our communities and we routinely monitor municipal water systems for hazards to our drinking water. Funding from the Infrastructure package would further enable our communities to update aging water infrastructure to ensure our residents continue to receive safe drinking water,” said Chautuaqua County Executive PJ Wendel.

The City of Buffalo welcomes the continued commitment by our Federal government partners to address infrastructure improvements, especially the buried and often hidden infrastructure concerns of lead service lines. My administration is doing our part by investing millions through our Replace Old Lead Lines (ROLL) program to keep our children safe from lead. This is a National problem, and we need consistent Federal support to ensure that no child suffers from the life changing effects of lead poisoning,” said Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown.

“The City of Lockport like many municipalities needs to continue improving its aged infrastructure and these federal funds will help us achieve that goal without burdening our taxpayers,” said Mayor Michelle Roman of Lockport,” said Lockport Mayor Michelle Roman.

“As Mayor in the city of Dunkirk, NY, I applaud President Biden and NY Senator Kirsten Gillibrand for bringing renewed recognition to environmental health issues and for bringing technical solutions & financial support to help address those issues.  I thank the Senator for joining our community leaders here in WNY and providing discussion for financed action plans to remove lead from our water lines wherever it may be lurking as a possible threat to the health of New Yorkers.  Many older homes in WNY contain lead pipe connections for water service, and the safest route to have zero exposure to lead is to remove these.  I thank all of our government officials helping to get that done,” said Dunkirk Mayor Willie Rosas.

“The Infrastructure Bill highly impacts communities like the City of Jamestown,” said Mayor Eddie Sundquist. “Getting an opportunity to attend the round table with Senator Gillibrand on lead pipe replacement, which is a critical issue for our municipal utility, is extremely valuable as funding becomes available,” said Jamestown Mayor Eddie Sundquist.

“The City of Tonawanda has a lot of historical buildings and landmarks, due to the Erie Canal corridor in our back yard,” said Tonawanda Mayor John White. “The fact that we have many old buildings, increase the potential of exposure to lead pipes for our seniors, kid’s gyms, play grounds and schools is a very real concern for us. I applaud Senator Gillibrand for hosting this roundtable to shed light on this important issue.”

“Buffalo and cities like it across Upstate New York face the challenges of aging housing and infrastructure, including the removal and replacement of lead pipes,” said Senator Kennedy. “Thank you to Senator Gillibrand for bringing much-needed attention to this pressing health and infrastructure issue and for facilitating an important conversation in how we can work together at all levels of government to address this need,” said State Senator Tim Kennedy.

“Buffalo continues to lead the nation in water quality and prevention of lead poisoning. Still, despite significant progress, childhood lead poisoning remains a serious problem in Erie County and throughout the state. I applaud the leadership of all levels of government on remaining vigilant on this important issue. Today’s round table hosted by US Senator Gillibrand, is a conversation that continues to center lead poisoning prevention as a priority and pushes the momentum to eradicate lead completely from our water sources,” said NYS Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes.

“Not unlike so many cities across the country, Buffalo has hundreds of miles of lead lines delivering water to its homes. Mayor Brown has taken remarkable initiative to replace damaged pipes, but the work at hand is extensive and costly. Our communities need the support of government – and the stakes couldn’t be higher. As a former teacher, I am deeply concerned about the life-altering effects of lead poisoning on the developing brains of children. I thank Sen. Gillibrand for initiating this important conversation here in Buffalo,” said Assemblymember Bill Conrad.

“The use of lead pipes in old houses and buildings was the norm for decades. As we have seen the dangerous and tragic effects of lead on personal health and the environment, it has become more necessary than ever to take action,” said NYS Assemblymember Karen McMahon. “Today’s roundtable discussion with Senator Gillibrand and other leaders was important in affirming the need to address this long-standing problem. The historic infrastructure package that was recently passed will make possible important changes, like the elimination of lead pipes, and will help communities in Western New York achieve better health and safety.”

“I’m very grateful to meet with Senator Kirsten Gillibrand to talk about the important work of rebuilding and repairing key elements of American infrastructure,” said Buffalo Labor Council President Denise Abbott. “This work includes replacement of lead pipes which is key in making our water cleaner and safer for all our communities.  We have high hopes such important work will also benefit millions of American workers,” said Denise Abbott, Buffalo Labor Council President.

“Similar to the numerous environmental impairments and infrastructure challenges history has saddled our Great Lakes region with, addressing the health risk from lead pipes and aging water infrastructure is going to require the mobilization of the community, increased municipal capacity, and the willingness of the residents to work in partnership with government”, said Jill Jedlicka, executive director Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper. “However, with the significant resources now available through the infrastructure package and the priority that Congress and the Biden administration have placed on these issues, we finally have a fighting chance to fix the mistakes and remove the residual threats to our health and community. We are thankful for Senator Gillibrand’s leadership on this issue in Washington, and for inspiring collaborative problem solving and action in Western New York.”  

“Western New York’s aging lead pipes pose a persistent health risk to our residents, especially children, who are most susceptible to lead poisoning,” said Assemblymember Monica Wallace.  “The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act funding provides an historic opportunity for municipalities and schools in our region to replace these water lines and eliminate this threat once and for all. I thank Sen. Gillibrand and the Biden Administration for their work in providing this vital infrastructure investment for our community,” said Assemblymember Monica Wallace.

“No mother should have to be concerned that the paint in a new home could drastically alter her child’s development and potentially inhibit them for life. It’s far past time that we took a proactive approach to limiting the dangers renters and homeowners face as a result of lead paint exposure. I am currently sponsoring two bills within the NYS Assembly (A.7488 and A.06608A) that will better protect New York residents from exposure to lead-based paint by closing key insurance loopholes and mandating more transparency in real estate transactions. I want to thank Sen. Gillibrand for her advocacy on this issue, and the Biden administration for producing the Lead Pipe and Paint Action Plan, which will utilize resources from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law while leveraging every tool within federal, state, and local government to deliver clean drinking water, replace lead pipes, and remediate lead paint across the nation,” said Assemblymember Jon Rivera.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), as many as 10 million lead pipes still carry water to homes and businesses across the country, and New York State has the fourth highest number of lead service lines in the nation. Senator Gillibrand has long worked to combat these and other lead hazards throughout the state. She leads the annual push to include funding for the EPA’s lead-based paint abatement, inspection, and enforcement programs in the Interior-Environment Appropriations Bill. Last year, she cosponsored the bipartisan Home Lead Safety Tax Credit Act of 2021 to remove miles of lead pipes and help families cover the cost of removing lead hazards from their homes. Senator Gillibrand also secured $360 million in funding for lead hazard control in the FY 2021 government spending package.