Action on Revised Lead and Copper Rule Scheduled for This Summer

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency published in November 2019 a proposed rule to improve the actions water systems must take to reduce lead in the nation’s drinking water. Action is scheduled to take place on the rule in the coming months.

The proposed rule revision represents the first major overhaul of the Lead and Copper Rule since 1991. The proposal includes changes for lead tap sampling, corrosion control treatment, lead service line (LSL) replacement, consumer awareness and public education, new requirements for community water systems to conduct lead in drinking water testing, and public education in schools and childcare facilities.

The rule also contains a new 10 parts per billion (ppb) lead trigger level that will enable water systems to respond to reduce lead levels before they exceed the 15 ppb action level in the future. These actions could include reevaluating current treatment or conducting a corrosion control study. Small systems that exceed the trigger and action levels will have flexibility with respect to treatment and LSL replacement actions.

Residential household water well systems are not affected by the proposed rule.

Small groundwater-supplied community water systems numbering 33,800 comprise 83% of the small water systems serving 3300 or fewer people. Of those small groundwater systems, 23% (7614 systems) had lead and copper rule violations at the end of 2019. Small groundwater systems with lead and copper rule violations were 88% of all small water systems with lead and copper violations.

NGWA commented on the proposed rule in February 2020 by:

  • Identifying required reporting, complex evaluations, and technical actions may be beyond the capability of many small water systems and requested the EPA examine ways to simplify these requirements and streamline small system participation in protecting their customers.
  • Noting all systems are required to have an inventory of lead service lines, a replacement schedule, a pitcher filter program, and a funding strategy, and many small water systems will need technical and financial assistance including drinking water loan forgiveness to be able to afford lead service line replacement and pitcher filters. NGWA asked the EPA and states to carefully evaluate the income levels of small communities required to meet these requirements and prequalify them for loan forgiveness.
  • Highlighting that the prescription for education and outreach relative to different requirements may be beyond small communities’ technical and educational expertise and asked the EPA and states provide materials for these communities and any training necessary to deliver the materials to customers.

The EPA is still reviewing the comments and data provided during the public comment period. Its schedule calls for the final rule to be signed by Summer 2020.