Second gentleman of the United States Doug Emhoff seemed impressed looking around City Creek Canyon, still sprinkled with patches of snow, in Salt Lake City on Friday afternoon. The uninterrupted sound of a rippling stream swirled between the mountains.

“Not bad, not bad,” he said with a wide smile. During his stop in the Beehive State, which comes during a presidential election year, Emhoff cheered the investments made in infrastructure across the country over the past few years that were championed by the Biden-Harris administration.

“Right here in Utah, the administration has announced $3.4 billion in public infrastructure and energy investments,” he said, adding those projects funded 160,000 jobs.

The purpose of Emhoff’s visit was to unveil the Biden-Harris administration’s $580 million investment in Utah’s water infrastructure. His announcement appropriately fell on World Water Day — “What better time,” Emhoff said.

More than two million Americans lack access to clean drinking water, while 9.2 million drink water from lead pipes, according to federal statistics.

“All of this is unacceptable. And all of this must change. And it is changing under the Biden-Harris administration,” Emhoff said.

Out of the funding awarded to Utah, $36 million will go toward rebuilding and retrofitting the City Creek Canyon Water Treatment Plant on the trailhead where the press conference took place.

This plant, which serves 365,000 residents, was built over half a century ago, and was the “first municipal water treatment facility west of the Mississippi River,” according to Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall. She signaled that construction was already underway, and set to be completed in 2027.

“As the second driest state in the nation, our ability to call safe Salt Lake City home is inherently dependent upon good stewardship of our water resources,” Mendenhall said.

Emhoff also said Salt Lake City is receiving a $40 million low interest loan to replace its existing lead pipes with safer options, making Utah the first state to receive federal funds for such a project. He noted the Salt Lake City Department of Public Utilities expects to replace anywhere between 9,000 to 14,000 lead pipes.

“Drinking water that comes from black pipes causes serious health problems, especially for young people. It stunts growth, causes brain damage, and affects learning. The young people in our families simply deserve better, and they will get better,” the second gentleman said.

Dustin White, the lead and copper control manager with the city’s public utilities department, said his teams know of around 126 lead pipes and have successfully replaced them upon discovery.

The department only has information on 75% of the 80,000 pipes, and outreach efforts continue.

Since many of the lead pipes are under private ownership, city officials are encouraging residents, especially those who own homes built in the 1950s, to ask for free inspections, White said.

Homeowners can also conduct basic magnet and coin tests themselves. They should first find the emergency shut-off value. If the pipe is the color of a penny, it’s made of copper. Silver typically attracts a magnet. Bright blue or black tubing is typically plastic. Meanwhile, lead is a soft metal, and can be easily scratched with a coin.

Why water providers want to know if there is lead in your home’s pipes

The department is also deploying AI technology and conducting visual inspections to determine the piping’s material, White said.

Emhoff introduced his “good friend” and the director of the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs Tom Perez, who admitted he was “distracted by the remarkable beauty” of the canyons.

Perez joked that among the things he had in common with Emhoff was they “both married up.” This earned a laugh from Emhoff, who is married to Vice President Kamala Harris.

Perez said the Biden-Harris administration is pouring money into infrastructure for water, high speed broadband service, roads and bridges across the U.S., including in Utah.

“This is a unique moment,” he said. “Those of you in elected office. ... You will look back in 20 years and say this was our Eisenhower moment in infrastructure.”

Former President Dwight D. Eisenhower was credited with the transformational highway system jumpstarted in the 1950s.

Perez said he was inspired by those trying to rebuild the Great Salt Lake on the front lines.

“I grew up near Niagara Falls, one of the wonders of the world, and the Great Salt Lake is another wonder of the world,” said Perez. He added it was a moral, economic and public health imperative to allow this body of water to remain a “remarkable wonder.”