EPA Proposes Improvements to Lead and Copper Rule

Increased lead pipe replacements could create work opportunities for contractors

EPA Proposes Improvements to Lead and Copper Rule

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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently announced a proposal to strengthen its Lead and Copper Rule that would require water systems across the country to replace lead service lines within 10 years. 

The EPA is also proposing additional improvements to protect public health, such as lowering the lead action level and improving sampling protocols utilized by water systems.

“EPA’s proposed Lead and Copper rule is grounded in the best available science and successful practices utilized by drinking water systems to protect children and adults from lead in drinking water,” says EPA Assistant Administrator for Water Radhika Fox. “Cities like Newark, New Jersey, Benton Harbor, Michigan, and Green Bay, Wisconsin, have all successfully gotten the lead out of their water systems. Our proposed rule applies the lessons learned to scale these successes to every corner of the country.”

Key provisions in the proposal include:

  • Achieving 100% lead pipe replacement within 10 years
  • Locating legacy lead pipes
  • Improving tap sampling
  • Lowering the lead action level
  • Strengthening protections to reduce exposure

The proposal would also require water systems to communicate more frequently and proactively with consumers about lead service lines and the system’s plans for replacing the lines.

Once the proposed rule is published in the Federal Register, EPA will accept comments for 60 days. The agency will also hold a virtual public hearing on Jan. 16, 2024, at which time the public will be invited to provide EPA with verbal comments. For more information about the proposed rule, including a pre-publication version of the proposal, fact sheets and directions for submitting comment and registering for the public hearing, visit the proposed rule webpage.

AMWA statement

The Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies released a statement about the proposed Lead and Copper Rule Improvements, saying it has repeatedly highlighted barriers to lead service line identification and replacement that drinking water systems are currently experiencing including, but not limited to, increasing costs, supply chain disruptions, workforce shortages, incomplete or missing building records, and lack of access to the private side of the service line.

"AMWA is pleased to see EPA’s proposal acknowledges barriers related to accessing lead service lines on private property," the association statement reads. "AMWA looks forward to thoroughly reviewing the proposal to identify ways the association can continue to work with EPA to collaborate on additional solutions."

“AMWA and its member drinking water systems across the country are committed to providing clean and safe water to all Americans and share EPA’s goal of working toward the identification and replacement of all lead service lines across the country," says AMWA CEO Tom Dobbins. "As noted during EPA’s Get the Lead Out Event earlier this year, successfully replacing lead service lines requires a cooperative effort between local water systems and individual homeowners, and adequate funding assistance from state or federal sources. AMWA urges EPA to focus on providing drinking water systems with the resources and tools necessary to achieve this ambitious goal, and working toward eliminating the real barriers that exist for many utilities.”


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