| AWWA testifies on new Lead and Copper Rule, affirms commitment to advancing public health
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AWWA testifies on new Lead and Copper Rule, affirms commitment to advancing public health

In testimony before the U.S. House Subcommittee on Environment and Climate Change regarding proposed Lead and Copper Rule (LCR) revisions, a representative from the American Water Works Association’s Water Utility Council (WUC) this week advocated to advance lead service line replacements nationwide while strengthening current protections for consumers.

Stephen Estes-Smargiassi (pictured below), chair of the WUC’s Lead and Copper Technical Advisory Workgroup, reiterated AWWA’s formal comments regarding the proposed rule, which were submitted to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Feb. 5. In general, AWWA recommends that the new rule should:

  • Be implementable in the field
  • Maintain effective corrosion control
  • Promote the development of effective technical solutions
  • Be understandable

Stephen Estes-Smargiassi
“AWWA and the water community are committed to working toward a day when the potential for lead in drinking water is removed from every household and every community,” said Estes-Smargiassi, director of planning and sustainability at Massachusetts Water Resources Authority. “We look forward to working with Congress, EPA, our members and everyone with an interest in safe water as the new rule is finalized and implemented.”
Estes Smargiassi with U.S. Rep. John Shimkus
Noting that EPA’s 2016 white paper on the LCR reported substantial nationwide progress in addressing lead from water, air, dust and soil over the past 50 years, Estes-Smargiassi added that collaboration among many entities is critical in advancing public health protection from lead in water. (Pictured right, Estes-Smargiassi with U.S. Rep. John Shimkus, R-Ill., ranking member on the House Subcommittee on Environment and Climate Change)

“Shared responsibility is central to reducing the health risks from lead across every media but is particularly important with developing policies to manage lead in drinking water,” he testified. “Reduction of lead in drinking water requires a collaborative effort by the water system, customers, consumers, manufacturers, state regulators, federal agencies, financing authorities, plumbers, code officials, local governments and many others.”

Estes-Smargiassi also discussed how his utility has dealt with lead, which was used in some communities as late as the mid-1980s to connect homes to the local water system. Lead also can be present in home plumbing components, solder and fixtures.

AWWA’s written comments to EPA expressed strong support for the revised rule’s requirements that water utilities develop inventories of lead service lines in their service territories and to share that information with their communities. The comments also addressed potential improvements in clarity, corrosion control requirements, sampling, public notification, and utility collaboration with schools and childcare facilities.

AWWA has actively encouraged its members – as part of their mission to protect public health -- to assist schools and childcare facilities in identifying and addressing lead in drinking water in their buildings. In October, AWWA joined with EPA in a Memo of Understanding to help schools and childcare facilities investigate and remediate lead problems.

The proposed rule, however, places water utilities in a new role as investigators in buildings that are outside their control. “AWWA believes the best role for the water utility in school and childcare facilities is as a helpful technical partner and advisor,” AWWA CEO David LaFrance emphasized in a statement last week.

“The new LCR is an opportunity to build on decades of progress in reducing lead exposure,” LaFrance added. “The number of the nation’s large drinking water systems exceeding the LCR action level has decreased by over 90 percent since the rule’s initial implementation. We look forward to working with EPA, our members and everyone with an interest in safe water as the new rule is finalized and implemented.”

AWWA provides online resources and information about managing lead in drinking water on its website.