Duckworth and Quigley Offer Comprehensive Approach to Keeping America’s Drinking Water Safe from Lead Contamination

Legislative package would improve contaminant testing and monitoring while providing resources to reduce lead levels in public water supplies


Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth (IL-08) and Congressman Mike Quigley (IL-05) today introduced a comprehensive legislative approach to address the nationwide contaminated drinking water crisis brought to light by ongoing problems with the public water supply in Flint, Michigan. The Representatives’ proposal for protecting the safety of America’s drinking water would both improve testing to keep potential contaminants like lead and copper out of public water supplies and provide resources to help communities remove contaminants that may already be present. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Ben Cardin (D-MD) have introduced companion measures in the U.S. Senate.

“The Flint water crisis puts a tragic face to the human costs of valuing pennies saved over peoples’ health, but it also highlights the urgent need to improve our nation’s dilapidated public water infrastructure,” said Congresswoman Duckworth.“Each day we delay these improvements risks the health of another child exposed to unsafe contaminants—not only in Flint but across the country. Reports suggest that nearly 80% of homes in Chicago are connected to lead service lines, but in many other cities and states we simply don’t know how many children we’re putting at risk. As a new mother, I won’t sit on the sidelines while our children are poisoned—I’m proud to join Congressman Quigley to offer a comprehensive approach to making our drinking water safe for all Americans.”

“The crisis in Flint has brought national attention to the threat of elevated lead levels in drinking water and the potential risks to children and families if left unnoticed,”said Congressman Quigley. “Our bills aim to better protect the American public’s drinking water supplies by focusing on common sense reforms to give Americans more information and better responses to hazards in their drinking water, as well as helping finance improvements to our aging water infrastructure. I am proud to join with Congresswoman Duckworth to protect drinking water for Chicagoans and Americans alike.”    

The two-pronged Duckworth-Quigley approach follows a Chicago Tribunereport on possible lead contamination in drinking water due to aging water infrastructure in Chicago.  The report cited a 2013 EPA study which uncovered the presence of elevated levels of lead in the drinking water of half the Chicago homes it tested.  The study showed that the EPA’s lead and copper rule misses the high lead levels and potential human exposure. The Duckworth-Quigley proposal includes:

  • The Copper and Lead Evaluation, Assessment and Reporting (CLEAR) Act of 2016, which would help protect Americans from being poisoned by their drinking water by codifying recent National Drinking Water Advisory Council recommendations in federal law and directing the EPA to improve reporting, testing and monitoring of lead and copper levels throughout the nation’s water infrastructure.
  • The GET THE LEAD OUT Act, which would provide grants to reduce lead in community drinking water delivery systems and public drinking water supplies.


“The crisis in Flint has brought national attention to the threat of elevated levels of lead in drinking water and the danger that can be to children and families if left untreated,”said Senator Durbin (D-IL), cosponsor of the CLEAR Act companion measure in the Senate.  “In cities like Chicago where nearly 80% of homes are connected to pipes that contain lead, aging water infrastructure can pose serious risks to residents. Representatives Duckworth and Quigley are proposing common sense reforms to give Americans more information about the safety of their drinking water so they can take action.”

"Americans have a right to expect that water coming from their taps is safe to drink. We can no longer delay needed upgrades to our infrastructure, strengthening drinking water protections and forever getting lead and other contaminants out of public water supplies,” said Senator Cardin (D-MD), a senior member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and sponsor of both Senate companion measures.“I'm proud to be a part of this bicameral, comprehensive approach with Representatives Duckworth and Quigley to ensure the safety of our water nationwide. Clean water is one of the most basic foundations of our daily lives. Unfortunately, for too long we have overlooked the need to invest in this key aspect of our future, and children in communities like Flint are the ones being made to suffer most. We can and must immediately do more as a country to better protect our waters and our kids, and these bills will help us do exactly that.” 

In addition to this legislative proposal, Duckworth intends to question the Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Gina McCarthy, at a hearing today about her agency’s handling of the situation in Flint, what can be done to protect communities throughout the nation from similar preventable health hazards, and the status of a review into the effectiveness of current lead and copper regulations that the Congresswoman and Senator Durbin requested last month. Michigan Governor Rick Snyder will also testify during the same House Oversight and Government Reform (OGR) Committee hearing, and the Congresswoman plans to inquire about failures with his state’s management of public water sources that allowed for the crisis in Flint to worsen on his watch.