Lead and Copper Rule updated for first time in 30 years


U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler announced the first major update to the agency’s Lead and Copper Rule (LCR) in nearly 30 years on Dec. 22. This action strengthens every aspect of the LCR and accelerates actions that reduce lead in drinking water to better protect children from lead exposure.

“This new Lead and Copper Rule will protect children and families from exposure to lead in drinking water,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “For the first time in nearly 30 years, this action incorporates best practices and strengthens every aspect of the rule, including closing loopholes, accelerating the real world pace of lead service line replacement, and ensuring that lead pipes will be replaced in their entirety.”

In older homes and buildings, lead can leach from service lines, solder, and fixtures into tap water and become a significant source of lead exposure. In children, lead exposure can cause irreversible and life-long health effects, including decreasing IQ, focus, and academic achievement.

“This Lead and Copper Rule makes substantive changes to protect children from the dangers of lead exposure,” said EPA Region 7 Administrator Jim Gulliford. “While we have increased community awareness and taken action to reduce childhood lead exposure, getting lead out of our communities’ drinking water supply lines is a momentous step. Each additional step we take in this fight against lead exposure provides a better future for our children and must continue to be a top priority.”

The U.S. has made tremendous progress in lowering children’s blood lead levels by phasing lead out of gasoline, banning lead paint, and implementing the old LCR. However, the old rule included deficiencies that are fixed by EPA’s new Lead and Copper Rule. For example, the old rule created so many loopholes that only 1 percent of utilities actually replaced lead pipes as a result of an action level exceedance. The old LCR also allowed up to 48 months to pass in small towns before corrosion control was in place after a water system exceeded the action level and failed to require all systems to test for lead in drinking water in their elementary schools or child care facilities.

EPA’s new Lead and Copper Rule better protects children and communities from the risks of lead exposure by testing drinking water at elementary schools and childcare facilities, getting the lead out of our nation’s drinking water, and empowering communities through information. Improvements under the new rule include:

• Using science-based testing to better locate elevated levels of lead in drinking water.

• Establishing a trigger level to jumpstart mitigation earlier and in more communities.

• Driving more and complete lead service line replacements.

• For the first time, requiring testing in elementary schools and childcare facilities.

• Requiring water systems to identify and make public the locations of lead service lines.