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Watchdog: EPA’s lead pipe fix sent about $3 billion to states based on unverified data

ST. LOUIS (AP) — The Environmental Protection Agency distributed about $3 billion to states last year to replace harmful lead pipes based on unverified data, according to an agency inspector general’s memo, likely meaning some states got too much money and others got too little.

Investigators found two states had submitted inaccurate data, the memo released Wednesday said. It didn’t name the states. The EPA has since made changes, but the inspector general said the agency could do more.

“Insufficient internal controls for verifying data led to allotments that did not represent the needs of each state, and if left unaddressed, the Agency runs the risk of using unreliable data for future” infrastructure spending, said EPA Inspector General Sean W. O’Donnell.

The agency has said it will release new information on lead service lines projections later this summer. The EPA did not respond to a request for comment Thursday.

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law provided $15 billion to find and replace lead pipes over five years. These pipes are especially common in the Midwest and Northeast and are typically found in older homes. Lead can reduce IQ scores in children and stunt their development. It is also linked to higher blood pressure in adults.

To distribute funds based on how many lead pipes states had, the EPA asked for estimates from states and utilities. Then, in April 2023, the agency announced the results — there are about 9.2 million lead pipes nationwide — and adjusted its funding formula.

Tom Neltner, national director with Unleaded Kids, said two states — Texas and Florida — had much higher totals than expected in those estimates. Florida ultimately received the most funding of any state in 2023: $254.8 million after an

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