MAC: Mines and Communities

EPA Strengthens Rule Governing Lead in Drinking Water

Published by MAC on 2006-07-10

EPA Strengthens Rule Governing Lead in Drinking Water


10th July 2006

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) plans to tighten its rules on lead in drinking water according to revisions proposed Thursday to the Lead and Copper Rule.

The proposal would revise monitoring requirements to ensure that water samples show how effective lead controls are. It would clarify the timing of sample collection and tighten criteria for reducing the frequency of monitoring the lead levels in drinking water.

Water utilities would be required to receive state approval of treatment changes so that states can provide direction or require additional monitoring.

Water utilities would be required to notify occupants of the results of any testing that occurs within a home or facility.

It also would ensure that consumers receive information about how to limit their exposure to lead in drinking water. Water utilities also would be required to reevaluate lead service lines that may have previously been identified as low risk after any major treatment changes that could affect corrosion control.

"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, EPA assistant administrator for water.

The proposed rulemaking affects public water systems that are classified as community water systems - systems that provide water to year-round residents in places like homes or apartment buildings.

In addition, non-transient, non-community water systems are affected. These are systems that provide drinking water to people in locations such as schools, office buildings, and restaurants, state agencies, and local and tribal governments.

The proposal is an outgrowth of EPA's March 2005 drinking water lead reduction plan. The agency developed the plan after analyzing the effectiveness of the Lead and Copper Rule and how states and local governments 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 collected information about local and state monitoring for lead in drinking water in schools and child-care facilities.

Lead is not a natural constituent of drinking water. 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 Lead and Copper Rule to reduce lead in drinking water. The rule requires water utilities to reduce lead contamination by controlling the corrosiveness of water and, as needed, replace lead service lines used to carry water from the street to the home.

Even at low levels, lead causes behavioral problems and learning disabilities in children six years old and younger, 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.

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