New England states are getting tens of millions of dollars from the federal government to help remove lead, "forever chemicals" and other toxins from drinking water systems.
On Thursday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced plans to distribute $7.4 billion to states next year through its State Revolving Fund programs.
The money comes from a $1 trillion infrastructure bill signed into law by President Joe Biden last month, which provides more than $50 billion for states to update drinking water and wastewater systems.
In a letter to governors, EPA Administrator Michael Regan encouraged states to maximize the impact of the federal funding from the law to "address disproportionate environmental burdens in historically underserved communities
"Every state in America has disadvantaged communities – rural, urban, suburban – that have deeply rooted water challenges whether it is too much, too little or poor water quality," Regan wrote. "These communities have never received their fair share of federal water infrastructure funding."
New Hampshire will get more than $72 million, according to the federal agency. Maine will be getting more than $68 million for water projects.
Overall, the New England region will be getting more than $536 million for water projects, the EPA said.
Nationally, about $2.9 billion of the funding will help pay for the replacement of aging lead pipes and service lines, while $866 million is intended to address per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances contaminants in water, according to the federal agency.
New England states are dealing with contamination from PFAS chemicals which have been detected in tests of major rivers and other waterways.
The compounds used to make products from rain coats to upholstery have been dubbed "forever chemicals" because they accumulate in the human body and can take thousands of years to degrade. Research has found potential links to illnesses such as kidney cancer and high cholesterol, among other ailments.
Lead contamination from the region's aging underground pipes and plumbing systems is another major concern for drinking water supplies.
Public health officials say no amount of lead in water is safe. Even low concentrations can be harmful, particularly for young children and the fetuses of pregnant women.
"Moving forward, the EPA's strategy to address lead in drinking water will prioritize communities with the highest lead levels and those with environmental-justice concerns," Regan wrote to governors. "I urge you to join us in this commitment."