The United Sates Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) announced in late 2019 their plans to update the current rule regarding lead and copper levels in drinking water in an effort to provide safer drinking water.  The Proposed Rule Updates reflects input received from the EPA’s state, local and tribal partners, the Science Advisory Board, the National Drinking Water Advisory Council and the best research on this public health topic.

EPA’s proposed updates to the LCR includes a suite of actions to identify the most at-risk communities and ensure that water systems will implement plans and actions to reduce elevated levels of lead in drinking water. The EPA aims to provide a more proactive and holistic approach to the current rule. The proposed revisions focus on six key areas included below:

1. Identify Areas Most Impacted – To focus on reducing high levels of lead in certain locations, the EPA proposes to require water systems to “find-and-fix” the causes of elevated levels. The EPA will require a public lead service line inventory.  Systems will have to pay attention to individual locations with elevated levels of lead by identifying the cause and mitigating the issue.

2. Strengthening Treatment Requirements – The EPA proposes to require corrosion control treatment (CCT) and establish a new trigger level of 10 ppb.  Based on sampling results, the systems with elevated lead levels will reevaluate existing CCT or conduct a treatment study to be prepared to respond quickly when necessary.

3. Replace Lead Service Lines – The EPA proposes to require water systems to replace the water system-owned portion of an LSL when a customer chooses to replace their customer-owned portion of the line; require water systems to conduct outreach and initiate LSL replacement programs when levels are above 10 ppb and prevent systems from avoiding lead service line replacements (LSLR) by “testing out” through sampling.

4. Increase Reliability of Sampling Drinking Water – The EPA proposes to require public water systems to adapt to new and improved sampling procedures and protocols. The number and selection of sampling sites will need to adjusted to better target locations that have higher concentrations of lead. Homes with LSLs will be required to be sampled while homes known to have high lead levels will be sampled more frequently.

5. Improve Risk Communication – The EPA proposes to require improvements to the relationship between water systems and their customers.  If samples from homes exceed the action level of 15 ppb, water systems will be required to notify their customers within 24 hours of the system receiving results. The current rule does not require water systems to notify customers if they have an LSL. The EPA will also require water systems to have continuous outreach to homeowners with LSLs. Public outreach and education would include Town Meetings and school visits.

6. Protecting Children – Children have the highest risks that are associated with lead exposure. Risks are elevated in more vulnerable communities. The EPA proposes to require public water systems to sample all schools and child care facilities, thus creating the safer environment needed to protect our children.

The EPA is reviewing comments received from stakeholders on this important issue.  The final version of the EPA revisions is expected to go into effect in 2020.

Walden can help you review, develop and implement programs in your own utility to help prepare you for these changes in the Lead and Copper Rule.  If you need assistance keeping your communities drinking water safe, please contact Walden today!