EPA Issues Proposal with Changes to Lead and Copper Rule

Oct. 23, 2019

After over two decades, the U.S. has issued a new proposal with improvements to the Lead and Copper Rule. 

The U.S. EPA issued a new proposal with the aim of improving how the nation tests for lead and copper in drinking water, according to the Washington Post

According to NPR, the proposal would require water systems to keep a public inventory of where lead service lines are. Utilities are also required to notify their customers within 24 hours if a water tests shows dangerous lead levels and to help them replace lead service lines if need be. Additionally, for the first time, local utilities will be required to test for lead in child-care facilities and schools.

“The Trump Administration is delivering on its commitment to ensure all Americans have access to clean drinking water by proposing the first major overhaul of the Lead and Copper Rule in over two decades,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler in the announcement. “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.”

The proposal notably establishes 10 ppb as the new trigger level, although there are technically no safe levels of lead and there is no maximum contaminant level standard set. The EPA’s proposal does not change the existing action level of 15 ppb, according to the announcement

Nevertheless, the significant changes made to lead and copper testing rules are still met with criticism. More specifically, environmentalists are pointing out that the EPA is not prioritizing the removal of the estimated 6 million lead service lines still in service, reported the Washington Post. According to one EPA estimate, replacing all of those lines could cost $80 billion.

“Everything else is small potatoes,” said Erik Olson, a senior director for the Natural Resources Defense Council. “From a public health standpoint, that’s absolutely critical. There are going to be problems with lead contamination as long as you leave lead pipes in the ground.”

The new rule will be open for comment for 60 days, according to the EPA

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Cristina Tuser