EPA Proposes Revised Rule for Lead in Drinking Water

The U.S. EPA plans to tighten its rules on lead. The proposed revisions would affect the lead portions of the lead-and-copper rule for drinking water.

The proposal would: revise monitoring requirements to ensure water samples show how effective lead controls are; clarify the timing of sample collection and tighten criteria for reducing the frequency of monitoring; require that utilities receive state approval of treatment changes so that states can provide direction or require additional monitoring; require that water utilities notify occupants of the results of any testing that occurs within a home or facility and also ensure that consumers receive information about how to limit their exposure to lead in drinking water; and require systems to reevaluate lead service lines that may have previously been identified as low risk after any major treatment changes that could affect corrosion control.

“This proposal reflects the administration’s commitment to protect public health. These revisions will prescribe stronger requirements for water system operators and will ensure the American people have access to the fundamental public service of clean, safe drinking water,” said Benjamin Grumbles, assistant administrator for water.

The proposal is an outgrowth of EPA’s March 2005 drinking water lead-reduction plan. The agency developed the plan after analyzing the efficacy of the regulation and how states and locals were implementing it. The agency collected and analyzed lead information required by the regulations, reviewed the states’ implementation, held five expert workshops about elements of the regulations, and worked to better understand local and state monitoring for lead in drinking water in schools and child-care facilities.

Lead is a highly toxic metal that was used for many years in and around homes. Even at low levels, lead may cause such health effects as behavioral problems and learning disabilities especially among children six years old and under, whose brains are still developing. Children are most often exposed to lead from the paint of older homes. Lead in drinking water can add to the exposure.

Lead is not a natural constituent of drinking water. It is picked up as water passes through pipes and household plumbing fittings and fixtures that contain lead. Water leaches lead from these sources and becomes contaminated. In 1991, EPA issued the lead-and-copper rule to reduce lead in drinking water. The rule requires water utilities to reduce lead contamination by controlling the corrosiveness of water and, as needed, replace lead service lines used to carry water from the street to the home.


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