AWWA Statement on Revised Lead and Copper Rule
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today announced its proposed revisions to the Lead and Copper Rule, which addresses lead in drinking water. David LaFrance, CEO of the American Water Works Association (AWWA), issued the following statement:
The American Water Works Association (AWWA) is committed to advancing strong consumer protections today while we work for a future where lead is no longer in contact with the water we drink. The Long-Term Lead and Copper Rule (LCR) released today represents an important step forward in addressing lead risks. While it’s too soon to offer a detailed analysis of the rule, a few important points stand out.
Under the proposed rule, all water systems would develop and update lead service line inventories. This is a necessary first step in developing plans to remove lead service lines and helping households and community leaders understand the scope of the lead challenge.
It’s also notable that the proposed rule requires the development of plans to remove all lead service lines. Identifying and removing lead services lines – many of which are located on private property – can only be achieved through cooperation among water utilities, property owners, public health officials, government at all levels, philanthropy, consumers and others. It is a complicated challenge, but also solvable. AWWA is proud to be an active participant in the Lead Service Line Replacement Collaborative, which offers helpful guidance on accelerating lead service line replacement.
Replacing lead service lines nationwide will take many years, and even when they are gone, lead components may still be present in home and building plumbing. Therefore, utilities must continue to be vigilant in monitoring and adjusting water chemistry to prevent lead from corroding into drinking water. The new rule underscores the importance of corrosion control and assures that utilities take corrective steps if household sampling suggests lead may be a problem. AWWA will continue to provide the technical guidance necessary to help its members meet the rule’s new corrosion control and sampling requirements.
Clear and transparent communication is critical to helping water consumers protect their households from lead. Consumers should understand how lead can get into drinking water and the short- and longer-term steps they can take to reduce risks. AWWA supports regular public outreach to water consumers, especially those at highest risk from lead.
The new LCR is an opportunity to build on decades of progress in reducing lead exposure. Despite setbacks like the Flint, Mich., experience, nationwide efforts to reduce exposure to lead from all sources – paint, gasoline, toys, soil and dust, drinking water – have resulted in a dramatic reduction in lead exposure in the United States over the past 45 years. As EPA pointed out in its 2016 white paper on the LCR revisions, the median blood lead levels for young children have decreased ten-fold since the mid-1970s. The number of large water systems out of compliance with the LCR has dropped by 90 percent since the rule’s initial implementation.
Still, important work remains. AWWA looks forward to working with EPA, states and utilities to find safe and affordable approaches that achieve further risk reduction and improved confidence in drinking water.