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EPA requesting comments on potential revisions to Lead and Copper Rule

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On January 8, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) held an Executive Order 13132 (EO 13132) Federalism consultation with state and local governments on their upcoming revision to the Safe Drinking Water Act’s (SDWA) Lead and Copper Rule (LCR). Under EO 13132, federal agencies are required to consult with state and local governments, and/or their national associations, on pending rules and regulations that have a significant impact on them.

The LCR is a federal regulation that sets limits for the amounts of lead and copper levels allowed in drinking water. It was last revised in 1991 and applies to 68,000 public water systems, many of which are owned by local governments.

According to the agency, an update to the LCR is needed because, based on scientific evidence, elevated lead in drinking water from degraded pipes can cause serious and permanent cognitive damage in children and cause damage to the brain, kidneys, liver and stomach in adults. These problems could impact upwards of 6-10 million older homes and buildings, many of which may still have lead and copper service lines within the home.

Under the yet-to-be proposed rule, EPA is assessing how to address lead and copper contaminates in public drinking water, especially since many drinking water systems rely heavily on lead and copper pipes in their current system. EPA is looking at several possible revisions to LCR within the following areas: lead service line replacement, corrosion control treatment, tap sampling, public education and copper requirements. Based on preliminary estimates, the average cost, per residence, would be $4,700 to replace the pipe from the main line to the point of entry within the home, although these costs could range from $1,200 to $12,300 depending on the length of the line.

Some of the questions raised during the EO 13132 Federalism consultation included: Would the water user be responsible for these costs or, would the water utility which is funded through its users, be responsible for the new costs? If service lines need to be replaced on private land and in homes, will there be associated safety and liability issues for workers? Who is responsible for landscaping that is destroyed through the project?

The EPA provided a PowerPoint presentation which describes the potential scope of the new rule and asks for state and local government to comment on opportunities and challenges to modify the LCR. The comments are due March 8. Comments must be submitted by March 8 to LCRConsultation@epa.gov or online.

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