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EPA releases revised rule on lead

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed overhaul of the Lead and Copper Rule, announced yesterday by Administrator Andrew Wheeler at an event in Green Bay, Wis., would require community water systems to take new actions regarding lead service line replacement, corrosion control, sampling and risk communication.

“The American Water Works Association (AWWA) is committed to advancing strong consumer protections today while we work for a future where lead is no longer in contact with the water we drink,” AWWA CEO David LaFrance said following the announcement. “The Long-Term Lead and Copper Rule (LCR) released today represents an important step forward in addressing lead risks.”

Key portions of the proposed Long-Term Lead and Copper Rule (LT-LCR) include:
1.    Requiring utilities to replace the utility-owned portion of a lead service line when a customer replaces the customer-owned portion.
2.    Strengthening corrosion control treatment at a new “trigger level.” At a trigger level of 10 parts per billion (ppb) for the 90th percent sample, systems that currently treat for corrosion would be required to re-optimize existing treatment. Systems that do not currently treat for corrosion would be required to conduct a corrosion control study. The 15 ppb action level remains unchanged.
3.    Increasing sampling reliability by embedding current guidance in rule language and revising sample pool requirements.
4.    Requiring public notification within 24 hours if a system exceeds the action level.
5.    Requiring utilities to test for lead in schools and child care facilities.

“By improving protocols for identifying lead, expanding sampling, and strengthening treatment requirements, our proposal would ensure that more water systems proactively take actions to prevent lead exposure, especially in schools, child care facilities, and the most at-risk communities,” Wheeler said when announcing the agency’s proposal for the Long-Term Lead and Cooper Rule (LT-LCR).

EPA will provide a 60-day comment period on the proposal and plans to finalize the new rule in 2020. Development of the LT-LCR began shortly after completion of the 2007 LCR Short-Term Regulatory Revisions.

The revised rule – which has been under review for more than a decade – has been the subject of great public debate since the 2015 lead incident in Flint, Mich. Over the past several years, EPA has refined its guidance to states on implementation of the current LCR.

“The new LCR is an opportunity to build on decades of progress in reducing lead exposure,” LaFrance said. “Despite setbacks like the Flint, Mich., experience, nationwide efforts to reduce exposure to lead from all sources – paint, gasoline, toys, soil and dust, drinking water – have resulted in a dramatic reduction in lead exposure in the United States over the past 45 years. … Still, important work remains. AWWA looks forward to working with EPA, states and utilities to find safe and affordable approaches that achieve further risk reduction and improved confidence in drinking water.”

AWWA’s resources on lead are available on its website resource page and website lead communications page.

 


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