EPA Proposes Revised Rule For Lead In Drinking Water

On July 6, EPA proposed regulatory changes to the existing national primary drinking water regulations (NPDWRs) for lead and copper.

According to the agency, the revisions would:

  • Enhance the implementation of the and Copper Rule (LCR) in the areas of monitoring, treatment, customer awareness, lead service line replacement
  • Improve compliance with the public education requirements of the LCR and ensure drinking water consumers receive meaningful, timely and useful information needed to help them limit their exposure to lead in drinking water.

"This proposal reflects the administration's commitment to protect public health. These revisions will prescribe stronger requirements for water system operators and will ensure the American people have access to the fundamental public service of clean, safe drinking water," said Benjamin Grumbles, assistant administrator for water.

The proposal is an outgrowth of EPA's March 2005 drinking water lead-reduction plan. The agency developed the plan after analyzing the efficacy of the regulation and how states and locals were implementing it. The agency collected and analyzed lead information required by the regulations, reviewed the states' implementation, held five expert workshops about elements of the regulations, and worked to better understand local and state monitoring for lead in drinking water in schools and child-care facilities, officials said.

Lead is a highly toxic metal that was used for many years in and around homes. Even at low levels, lead may cause such health effects as behavioral problems and learning disabilities especially among children six years old and under, whose brains are still developing. Children are most often exposed to lead from the paint of older homes. Lead in drinking water can add to the exposure.

Lead is not a natural constituent of drinking water, agency officials said. It is picked up as water passes through pipes and household plumbing fittings and fixtures that contain lead. Water leaches lead from these sources and becomes contaminated. In 1991, EPA issued the LCR to reduce lead in drinking water. The LCR has four basic requirements:

  1. Require water suppliers to optimize their treatment system to control corrosion in customer's plumbing.
  2. Determine tap water levels of lead and copper for customers who have lead service lines or lead-based solder in their plumbing system.
  3. Rule out the source water as a source of significant lead levels.
  4. If lead action levels are exceeded, require the suppliers to educate their customers about lead and suggest actions they can take to reduce their exposure to lead through public notices and public education programs.

If a water system, after installing and optimizing corrosion control treatment, continues to fail to meet the lead action level, it must begin replacing the lead service lines under its ownership.

Additional information on the proposal can be accessed at http://www.epa.gov/safewater/lead.

This article originally appeared in the 07/01/2006 issue of Environmental Protection.

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