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Safer drinking water in Philadelphia, the nation — thanks to the Biden infrastructure law

Photo: Layland Masuda/ Getty Images
Safer drinking water in Philadelphia, the nation — thanks to the Biden infrastructure law
By Pablo Ros ·

To Diane Jordan, her job is more than just a job.

An administrative technician at the Queen Lane Water Treatment Plant in Philadelphia, her public service is about making her community better.

“What I like about my job is the fact that we are treating the drinking water so we can have a healthier community,” says Jordan, a member of AFSCME Local 2187 (District Council 47). “Because of our work, it is safe for residents to drink the water from the tap. I enjoy doing my job.”

Jordan’s commitment to public service is part of the reason she was thrilled when President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris visited the Belmont Water Treatment Plant on Feb. 3 to announce additional funding for safe drinking water.

The president announced that the city is set to receive $160 million to upgrade water facilities and replace over 19 miles of water mains, as part of the funding provided by the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. All told, just in the law’s first year, $8.1 billion is headed to Pennsylvania, to fund more than 168 projects.

In addition, a $340 million loan from the Environmental Protection Agency will help the city upgrade its water system, including replacing approximately 160 lead service lines and 13 miles of water mains. And 10 communities across the state will participate in the agency’s new program — called “Lead Service Line Replacement Accelerators” — that will help replace lead pipes more quickly.

“I think it’s great that funds are being made available to Philly to replace lead pipes,” Jordan said. “When the pipes are old, they can be harmful. Lead can cause many problems in the body, so we are very fortunate to have these funds.”

At the event, Biden said 10 million families across the country are exposed to lead water pipes, and that his administration is committed to replacing every lead service line in the country over the next 10 years.

“Every person in this country deserves to be able to turn on a faucet and have clean drinking water,” he said. “And through the infrastructure law, we’re making historic investments to make sure that they can.”

The Biden administration has already funded the removal of 100,000 lead service lines nationwide, and that number is expected to grow significantly. Many of the jobs created with funding from the infrastructure law will be unionized, Biden said.

In addition to Biden and Harris, other elected officials at the event included Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney, Philadelphia U.S. Rep. Dwight Evans, Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro, Pennsylvania Sens. Bob Casey and John Fetterman, and EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan.

Jordan, who has been working at the water treatment plant for 16 years and has three grown children, said there was another reason she wanted to meet Biden and Harris in person: She is a huge fan of the president and vice president.

“Everyone I voted for was there, including the mayor and the governor. We were in great company,” she said. “The president just always gets to the point. He is no-nonsense. He cares about working people like myself. He looks out for us. I like that about him.”

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