The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed revisions to the Safe Drinking Water Act’s “Lead and Copper Rule.” The goal of the Lead and Copper Rule (LCR) is to reduce lead in drinking water provided by regulated water systems. Increasing public concern has created momentum for tackling lead at the tap. Instead of capitalizing on that momentum, EPA missed the best opportunity to get the lead out by not mandating full replacement of lead service lines.
EPA’s proposal includes updates in six major aspects of this complex regulation. But EPA can do more.
GET THE LEAD OUT: Lead service lines are the pipes that deliver water from the large water main to the building. Where lead service lines are present, they are the largest source of lead in tap water. EPA should require all water systems to fully replace all lead service lines within a specified timeline.
PROHIBIT RISKY PRACTICES, like “partial replacement." Researchers have found that partial replacements result in elevated lead levels over a long period of time. While EPA proposes to remove incentives for partial replacements when water systems are required to begin replacements after finding elevated lead levels, they did not take other steps to reduce this risky practice. EPA should prohibit partial lead service line replacements.
REPLACE SERVICE LINES FASTER: When water systems find elevated lead levels, the existing LCR requires them to replace lead service lines at a rate of 7% annually. EPA proposes to improve several aspects of these replacement programs, but has reduced the annual percentage to 3% EPA should not reduce the percentage of pipes required to be replaced. Instead, EPA should speed up replacement rates.
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