The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is issuing requests for input from state and local stakeholders on improving the Lead and Copper Rule (LCR). Experts believe the decades-old drinking water rule is not doing enough to protect the public. Regulators aim to modernize the rule to insure effective implementation and protection of public health.
The EPA is considering updates to the LCR because researchers do not believe it is capable of accomplishing its primary goal of reducing lead and copper exposure in our water systems. Experts have identified several key challenges with the existing rule. Changes will ideally address and rectify these concerns:
- Water tests must be conducted in consumer houses and often that responsibility falls on the homeowner.
- Local and state systems must have the proper scientific expertise to conduct a proper sampling program and analyze its results, which is not always the case.
- Water systems are only required to respond after a problem is discovered.
- Corrosion controls are hampered by the intricate often antiquated and outdated water distribution pipes between treatment and household tap.
- Lead service line replacements are expensive and replacement costs fall on the consumer.
- Lead and copper action levels do not correspond with best science: there is no safe level of lead consumption.
By rule, water systems must take action if more than 10% of sampled household taps register lead levels of 15 parts per billion or copper levels of 1.3 parts per million. Yet, the recommended safe intake level is 0.00 parts per billion. A primary concern of researchers is that infants are being exposed to lead through baby formula mixed with tap water. Lead poisoning most effects the undeveloped brain like that of a child.
“Despite lead contaminated sites being an environmental threat to our country, EPA has not updated the Lead and Copper Rule in decades,” said EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. “In keeping with our commitment to cooperative federalism, EPA is seeking input from state stakeholders on proposed revisions to properly address lead and ensure communities have access to safe drinking water.”
Further information on the challenges facing the LCR and the proposals to modernize it can be found in the Lead and Copper Rule White Paper (PDF).