EPA’s Proposal to Reduce Lead in Drinking Water

Source: Danil Chepko - 123RF

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced a proposed rule that significantly improves the actions that water systems must take to reduce lead in the nation’s drinking water.

This action represents the first major overhaul of the Lead and Copper Rule since 1991.

According to EPA Administrator, Andrew Wheeler, by improving protocols for identifying lead, expanding sampling, and strengthening treatment requirements, the 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, “We are also working with the Department of Housing and Urban Development to encourage states and cities to make full use of the many funding and financing options provided by the federal government.”

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has launched a new website that summarizes available federal programs that help finance or fund lead service line (LSL) replacement.

The new resource also includes case studies demonstrating how cities and states have successfully leveraged federal resources to support LSL replacement projects. 

Under the proposal, a community water system would be required to take new actions, including, but not limited to:

1) Identifying the most impacted areas by requiring water systems to prepare and update a publicly-available inventory of lead service lines and requiring water systems to “find-and-fix” sources of lead when a sample in a home exceeds 15 parts per billion (ppb);

2) Strengthening drinking water treatment by requiring corrosion control treatment based on tap sampling results and establishing a new trigger level of 10 ppb (e.g. trigger level);

3) Replacing lead service lines by requiring water systems to replace the water system-owned portion of an LSL when a customer chooses to replace their portion of the line. Additionally, depending on their level above the trigger level, systems would be required to take LSL replacement actions;

4) Increasing drinking water sampling reliability by requiring water systems to follow new, improved sampling procedures and adjust sampling sites to better target locations with higher lead levels;

5) Improving risk communication to customers by requiring water systems to notify customers within 24 hours if a sample collected in their home is above 15 ppb. Water systems will also be required to conduct regular outreach to the homeowners with LSLs; and

6) Better protecting children in schools and child-care facilities by requiring water systems to take drinking water samples from the schools and child-care facilities served by the system.

In addition, EPA is working with states to ensure that the existing Lead and Copper Rule is being properly implemented.