Managing Lead in Drinking Water

Overview

Lead and copper enter drinking water mainly from corrosion of lead and copper containing plumbing materials. While use of lead in plumbing materials has been banned for more than a quarter century, the release of lead into drinking water remains a serious concern. 

Environmental lead exposure is decreasing; children’s blood lead levels are a fraction of previous levels. As efforts continue to reduce lead exposure from all sources, there is an increasing focus on what more the water sector can do to assist the communities they serve reduce lead.

AWWA has endorsed the National Drinking Water Advisory Council recommendations for revising the Lead and Copper Rule. The NDWAC recommendations include improving public outreach on lead in drinking water, greater focus on corrosion control by all community water systems, and developing community-specific plans to remove all lead service lines in their entirety.

what is happening now

The USEPA is currently drafting revisions to the Lead and Copper Rule. The published schedule is for release of the proposal is February 2019, and a final rule in 2020. 

EPA is also promulgating a regulation to implement Section 1417 of the Safe Drinking Water Act: Prohibition on Use of Lead Pipes, Solder, and Flux. The final rule is scheduled for publication in January 2019.

Steps Your system can take

Talk about lead with your customers. Every water system has a story to tell. Customers want to know about the likely sources of lead present in your community, what the system is doing to control corrosivity, and options for customers concerned about lead to take additional actions. Suggestions on how to communicate effectively are available in AWWA’s Lead Communications Toolkit

Review and refine current corrosion control practice. All systems serving more than 50,000 persons have a formal corrosion control treatment program.  All other systems are managing their supplies, perhaps with active treatment measures, to reliably comply with the current LCR action levels. Understanding and modifying corrosion control take careful study and evaluation.  

Develop a strategy to remove lead service lines. Lead service lines are a large potential source of lead in drinking water. The Lead Service Line Replacement Collaborative provides an introduction to building a community-based approach to lead service replacement. Replacing lead service lines completely will require a shared effort with customers, local government leaders, and numerous other local agencies.