In 2011 President Obama signed into law the Reduction of Lead in Drinking Water Act. This act amended section 1417 of the existing Safe Drinking Water Act. This act changed the definition of “lead free” from 8.0% to 0.25% and required pipes, pipe fittings, and plumbing fittings and fixtures to be “lead free.” The science behind this act was that lead does not normally occur in source water but can find its way into a water system through the corrosion of pipes and fixtures. This federal law applies to any product used within a system where water is anticipated to be used for human consumption.
On December 22, 2020, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized a major update to the Lead and Copper Rule (LCR). This update is known as the Lead and Copper Rule Revisions (LCRR) and was officially issued on January 15, 2021. It was developed and finalized in an effort to better protect children at elementary schools and childcare facilities, get the lead out of drinking water, and empower communities through available information and education. Moreover, it specifically laid the groundwork for three things:
- It requires community water systems (CWS) to test for lead in elementary schools and childcare facilities that they serve. In addition to testing, CWSs are also required to provide the results of testing and actions that can be taken to reduce the lead in the water in a timely manner.
- It requires the use of science-based testing protocols to locate additional sources of lead in the drinking water. The rule also creates triggers for actions to address the lead earlier and reduce the lead by better managing corrosion control treatment, closing loopholes, and replacing more lead service lines (LSL).
- It builds the information infrastructure needed to empower individuals, communities, water systems, and local governments to take action to reduce lead in drinking water. Water systems are required to inventory lead service lines within their system and make that information available to the public. Additionally, they must provide timely testing notifications and options for reducing the lead for homeowners. Lastly, it provided information on funding resources to support LSL replacement.
LCRR in review
Subsequent to issuing the LCRR, the EPA began reviewing it to evaluate if the new revisions protect families and communities, emphasizing those disproportionately impacted by lead in drinking water. It was concluded that there are still significant improvements that can be made to the LCRR. These improvements are known as the Lead and Copper Rule Improvements (LCRI) and focus on proactive and equitable lead service line replacement, strengthening compliance tap sampling to better identify the communities with the highest risk from exposure to lead in drinking water, compelling actions for the reduction of lead, and reducing the complexity of the regulation through improvement of the action and trigger level construct. The EPA intends to publish the LCRI by October 16, 2024.
Most recently, on August 4, 2022, the EPA released information that can be used to guide systems in developing and maintaining service line inventories. This guide is known as Guidance for Developing and Maintaining a Service Line Inventory and was created to support water systems in their efforts to develop these inventories and to also provide states with the needed information for oversight and reporting to the EPA. The LCRR requires systems to prepare and maintain an inventory of service line materials by October 16, 2024. The guide and an Inventory Template can be viewed here. The guide contains key information including:
- Best practices for inventory development and communicating information to the public.
- An inventory template that can be adapted for use by water systems, states, and tribes.
- Case studies on developing, reviewing, and communicating about inventories.
- The importance of prioritizing inventory development in disadvantaged communities and where children live and play.
MWUA joins forces with 120Water
120Water and the Maine Water Utilities Association (MWUA) have announced a new partnership that will expand the technical assistance and support available to MWUA members, with a focus on equipping systems with tools and resources to successfully manage water quality programs related to lead and other contaminants. The partnership will also increase the resources available to water systems as they prepare to meet new regulatory expectations due to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Lead and Copper Rule Revisions (LCRR). In addition, MWUA members have access to scheduled training and education provided by experts on the 120Water team.