WASHINGTON, DC  – Replacing all of America’s lead service lines would create 56,000 jobs that will last at least 10 years (560,000 job-years) and inject about $104 billion into the nation’s economy, a new study from E2 (Environmental Entrepreneurs) and the United Association of Union Plumbers & Pipefitters (UA) shows.

Based on the Biden administration’s plans to invest $45 billion to replace 100 percent of lead service lines in America, the findings from Getting the Lead Out: Employment & Economic Impacts from Replacing America’s Lead Service Lines show this infrastructure work would mean hundreds of jobs or in some cases tens of thousands of jobs in construction, manufacturing and other sectors in every state. The Midwest and Northeast would see the most jobs and economic activity due to the high proliferation of lead pipes in those states.

Over a 10-year period, the estimated $45 billion investment the Biden administration has said is needed to replace lead pipe service lines would return more than twice as much to the economy, including $54 billion in direct and indirect economic benefits, $38 billion in labor income, and nearly $12 billion in taxes. The economic benefits of longer-term healthcare savings and other societal benefits were not modeled in this analysis.

The report comes as Congress is considering legislation and funding to replace dangerous lead pipe service lines as part of the Biden administration’s Build Back Better plans.

U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko (D-NY), chairman of the House Environment and Climate Change Subcommittee and co-sponsor of the AQUA Act (HR 1071), which would increase funding for lead service line replacements, said:

“We know there is no safe level of lead—yet we still rely on millions of lead pipes and other components to deliver precious drinking water to our homes, schools and businesses. Exposure to lead inflicts the most severe damage on our kids, communities of color and low-income communities, harms that have been put on the backburner for far too long. This report makes it staggeringly clear that investments in our public health not only deliver exponential returns and savings for our communities, they also help grow and strengthen our economy. With this much at stake and so much to gain, Congress must act immediately to advance my AQUA Act or any legislation that makes needed investments to at last get lead out of our drinking water.”

Mark McManus, General President of the United Association of Union Plumbers and Pipefitters said:

“It’s no secret that replacing our nation’s lead service lines will create good-paying UA jobs while keeping our communities and our water supply safe. This report underscores the critical need for full funding of these projects with strong labor protections – and why we have no time to waste getting to work. The Brothers and Sisters of the UA are the best trained and most highly skilled craftspeople in the industry, and we look forward to continuing our work protecting the health of the nation.”

Bob Keefe, executive director of the national, nonpartisan business group E2 said:

“President Biden has pledged to invest $45 billion to replace 100 percent of lead pipes in America – and this report shows that’s exactly what we need to do. This is not the time to back down. We can create thousands of jobs, generate billions of dollars in economic activity and clean up our drinking water supplies.”

Lead service lines connect water mains and provide drinking water to homes, businesses, schools and other facilities. Estimates show there could be as many as 12.8 million lead service lines spread across all 50 states. According to the report, investing $45 billion to replace 100 percent of these hazardous pipes would:

  • Create 56,080 direct and indirect jobs that would last for 10 years, or a total of 560,800 job-years. The vast majority of these jobs would be in construction (52 percent), followed by professional and business services (24 percent) manufacturing (8 percent) and other occupations.
  • Generate $104 billion in economic activity, taxes, and additional wages over 10 years, including about $38 billion in labor income; nearly $12 billion in local, state and federal taxes, and $54 billion in economic activity.
  • Produce jobs and economic activity in every state, with Ohio leading the way (63,700 job-years); followed by Illinois (61,500) and Michigan (43,200). New York, New Jersey, Texas, Missouri and Massachusetts each would also see tens of thousands of new jobs created to clean up lead service lines.

For the full report, including state-specific details for every state, see:  https://on.e2.org/replacingleadpipes.

The jobs and economic activity are in addition to other societal and economic benefits from replacing service lines made from lead, which is a potent neurotoxin that damages the brains and nervous systems of children and can lead to cardiovascular, reproductive and other harmful health effects in adults.

Previous studies have estimated that $22,000 of societal and health benefits are generated for every lead service line replaced as a result of lower cardiovascular disease alone. Since in many states lead service lines are more likely to exist in low- and moderate-income communities and communities of color, and since Black and Latino children are disproportionately exposed to lead, replacing these pipes will also greatly benefit low income and minority households.

The report was done for E2 and UA by BW Research Partnership. It is based on data from the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics and other sources and estimates on the proliferation of lead pipes by state from the Natural Resources Defense Council’s (NRDC’s) 2021 survey of lead service lines.

For more information or for interview requests, please contact Ben Finzel (202-277-6286, ben@renewpr.com) or Michael Timberlake (913-645-9103; mtimberlake@e2.org).

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Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2) is a national, nonpartisan group of business leaders, investors, and professionals from every sector of the economy who advocate for smart policies that are good for the economy and good for the environment. Our members have founded or funded more than 2,500 companies, created more than 600,000 jobs, and manage more than $100 billion in venture and private equity capital. For more information, see www.e2.org or follow us on Twitter at @e2org.

Founded in 1889, the United Association of Union Plumbers and Pipefitters (UA) proudly represents more than 359,000 highly skilled journeymen and apprentice plumbers, pipefitters, pipeliners, sprinkler fitters, welders, and HVACR service techs in the US and Canada. The UA is an affiliate of both the AFL-CIO and North America’s Building Trades Unions (NABTU).

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