The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed revisions to the Lead and Copper Rule (LCR) for drinking water and the final version is expected yet this year. The Lead and Copper Rule was enacted in 1991 to regulate levels of lead in public drinking water. These revisions will be the first major update in nearly three decades to the 1991 LCR. Most feedback on these changes suggest that the EPA is opting for modest improvements to the rule.
The new rule establishes, for the first time, required testing for lead in all schools and daycare centers. In all, the proposed revisions focus on six (6) key areas:
- Identifying Customers/Areas Most Impacted
- Strengthening Treatment Requirements
- Replacing Lead Service Lines
- Increasing Reliability of Sampling Drinking Water
- Improving Risk Communication
- Protecting Children at Schools and Care Facilities
Please refer to Walden’s previous blog post Revisions to the Lead and Copper Rule (LCR) for Drinking Water for more details on these topics.
The public comment period for the Lead and Copper Rule closed in February and comments are being evaluated by the EPA. Walden has reached out to the EPA and they still suggest the issuance of a final rule in 2020. Other sources stated that the revisions may be published this month or next (November).
Anticipating the new rules, many states are working on regulatory programs to replace existing lead service lines (LSLs). However, responses to COVID-19 have taken priority over many of these other initiatives. For example, in most of New Jersey, LSL replacement has been delayed indefinitely. In Somerville, Massachusetts, a Lead Service Line Replacement program was launched, but Phase 1 was delayed until Spring 2021. The city of Flint, Michigan started replacing LSLs in response to the city’s water crisis, but has also suspended its lead service line replacement program amid the COVID pandemic.
Across the country, replacing lead-based drinking water infrastructure will become even more difficult with responses to COVID-19 stressing state and local budgets.