EPA Seeks Comments on Lead, Copper Rule
Last week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced that it would be extending the effective date of the Revised Lead and Copper Rule so that the agency could further seek public input, particularly from communities that are most at-risk of exposure to lead in drinking water.
“The purpose of these two actions is to enable EPA to conduct a thorough review of the Revised Lead and Copper Rule and fully consult with stakeholders, including those that have been disproportionately impacted by lead in drinking water,” said former EPA Acting Assistant Administrator for Water Radhika Fox. “Exposure to lead in drinking water can be a very serious problem for children’s health. It is essential that EPA takes the time now to review this important rule to ensure that we are protecting current and future generations.”
Copper and Lead Rule
On Oct. 10, 2019, the EPA proposed a rule amendment that would be the first significant overhaul of the Lead and Copper Rule since 1991. At the time, the proposal both marked Children’s Health Month and acted as a step forward for the Trump administration’s plan to reduce childhood exposure to lead.
The proposal is a holistic rule amendment and was announced by EPA Regional Administrator Mike Stoker during an event in Las Vegas. According to The Washington Post, the EPA’s proposal aims at improving how communities test for lead in drinking water, as well as spurring quicker response times if problems become evident.
The rule amendment pushes to require water systems to act sooner to better public health and reduce lead levels, facilitate transparency and communications, and improve the protection of both children and the most at-risk communities.
The proposal also requires community systems act by:
According to the Post, the amended rule was under development since 2010, and is meant to tackle lead levels across 68,000 public water systems.
At the time of the announcement, the EPA and Department of Housing and Urban Development also launched a new website that offers information on available federal programs geared toward helping finance lead service line replacement. The information also includes case studies pertaining to similar projects.
Additional Input Requests
According to the EPA’s most recent announcement regarding the Lead and Copper Rule is to extend the effective date for the revised LCR from March 16 until June 17. The EPA notes that the purpose of the extension is to enable the agency to take public comment on a second action that would provide a longer extension of the effective date.
The action also aims to allow the EPA to undertake its review of the rule in a deliberate and thorough manner consistent with the public health purposes of the Safe Drinking Water Act, President Biden’s Executive Order on Protecting Public Health and the Environment and Restoring Science to Tackle the Climate Crisis, the President’s Chief of Staff’s Regulatory Freeze Pending Review Memorandum, and in consultation with affected stakeholders.
A second action on the rule, however, proposes to extend the effective date until Dec. 16 and also proposes a corresponding extension of the revised LCR’s compliance deadline to Sept. 16, 2024. The EPA notes that this action would ensure that drinking water systems and primacy states continue to have the full three years provided by the Safe Drinking Water Act to take actions needed to assure regulatory compliance.
The EPA is seeking comment on this proposal for 30 days after it publishes in the Federal Register.
Until then, the EPA reports to remain a flexible approach through its dealings with stakeholders, including communities that have been impacted by lead, drinking water utilities and EPA’s state partners.
Last year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and EPA announced a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) that aims to help water systems face the challenges of aging infrastructure, workforce shortages, increasing costs, limited management capacity and declining rate bases.
According to EPA’s news release, the decision supports its 50th anniversary and February theme of protecting the nation’s waters, which includes surface water protection, safe drinking water and water infrastructure investments.
At the time, reports claimed that more than 97% of 153,000 public drinking water systems in the U.S. served less than 10,000 people, while 78% of the 15,000 wastewater treatment plants treated less than one million gallons per day. These small systems are often found in rural locations and often face challenges when working to meet federal and state regulations to successfully provide affordable drinking water and wastewater services.
Through the MOA, a formal collaboration has been created between the EPA and USDA as to help create short- and long-term sustainability in rural water systems. To achieve the implementation of innovative strategies and tools, the agreement focuses on four main areas: