Clean Water Action: The Revised Lead and Copper Rule (LCR) is Inadequate

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Washington DC -- Today the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced finalization of Revisions to the Safe Drinking Water Act Lead and Copper Rule (LCR).  Clean Water Action and Clean Water Fund, had been engaged in this process during the fifteen years that it has been underway.

Clean Water Action Campaigns Director, Lynn Thorp, released the following statement:

"The Revised Lead and Copper Rule (LCR) is inadequate. The failure to require full lead service line replacement is the most glaring example of EPA’s failure to propose bold changes to reduce lead at the tap.

Since EPA began revising its outdated regulations more than a decade ago, we’ve learned more about how small amounts of lead impact children under six. We’ve also learned more about cardiovascular disease in adults as a result of lead exposure. Health professionals, water sector leaders, policymakers, and the public understand that there is no safe level of lead. EPA had an opportunity to move decisively towards reducing lead in drinking water by requiring full replacement of all lead service lines, the largest source of lead in drinking water, but fell short. Replacing all lead service lines is achievable, and the benefits of this investment in public health protection outweigh the costs.

In our February 2020 comments on the proposed LCR Revisions we noted that EPA should require water systems to cover the full cost of lead service line replacement regardless of ownership or whether the pipe lies under public or private property. The environmental justice review commissioned by EPA as part of the rulemaking process found that low-income and minority populations are more likely to live in older housing with LSLs. The review found that some of the proposed LCR revisions would benefit all populations equally. However, the environmental justice review also found that LCR provisions that presume customers must pay part of the cost of LSL replacement, will leave low-income people with disproportionately higher health risks. This inequity must be addressed, especially considering that race and income are still major predictors of elevated blood lead levels in children.

The final LCR Revision include improvements in some aspects of the multi-faceted regulation, including in lead sampling and in public and consumer notification. EPA will require water systems to compile and submit to state agencies an inventory of lead services lines. The inventory requirement, like other aspects of the finalized LCR, explicitly recognize the contribution of lead service lines to elevated lead at the tap, yet EPA stopped short of a nationwide requirement to replace them.

We will work with EPA, state agencies, regulated water systems, and communities on implementation of the Revised LCR and will continue to support community efforts to get lead out of our water distribution systems. We will also work to reverse Trump administration rollbacks of Clean Water Act protections and other pollution prevention and programs that put drinking water sources and communities’ well-being at risk."

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Since our founding during the campaign to pass the landmark Clean Water Act in 1972, Clean Water Action has worked to win strong health and environmental protections by bringing issue expertise, solution-oriented thinking and people power to the table.

Michael Kelly