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EPA Proposes Revisions to the Lead and Copper Rule

On October 10, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced its long-awaited proposed revisions to the Lead and Copper Rule—the first major revision since the rule was promulgated in 1991. The proposal maintains the current lead “action level” of 15 parts per billion (ppb) and “maximum contaminant level” goal of zero but includes a variety of changes that could significantly impact water systems across the nation. 

Enhanced Focus on Identifying and Addressing Homes with Lead Service Lines

EPA has stated that a major driver of many of its proposed changes is identifying and remediating high-risk homes, and in particular, those served with a lead service line (LSL). Thus a key element of the proposal is the requirement that water systems prepare, and update, LSL inventories. Another is the requirement to “find and fix” sources of lead in any individual home where a test demonstrates lead levels in excess of 15 ppb. When the “fix” is outside of the water system’s control, documentation must be provided to the state. EPA is also modifying tap sampling procedures and the criteria for selecting homes for sampling to prioritize homes served by LSLs.

Greater Transparency

In an effort to increase transparency (foreshadowed by EPA’s September 25, 2019, Report on public notice of drinking water risks), the proposal requires that LSL inventories be made available to the public, meaning – at least for large systems serving greater than 100,000 people – posting the inventory on a publicly-accessible Internet site to facilitate easy access. EPA also proposes regular outreach by water systems to homeowners with LSLs. Further, when any individual tap sample exceeds the lead action level of 15 ppb, systems would be required to notify consumers at the site within 24 hours of learning of the result (instead of the current 30 days). 

New Lower “Trigger” for Corrosion Control and Lead Service Line Replacement Actions

The proposal would also make changes to the requirements for corrosion control, most notably by establishing a new “trigger” level of 10 ppb. The trigger level is not a health-based standard. At this trigger level, systems that currently treat for corrosion would be required to re-optimize their existing treatment, while systems that do not currently treat for corrosion would need to conduct a corrosion control study. Under EPA’s proposal, water systems must also conduct outreach and initiate LSL replacement programs when lead levels are above the proposed trigger level of 10 ppb. EPA will require systems that are above 10 ppb, but at or below 15 ppb, to work with their state to set an annual goal for LSL replacement. Those systems that are above the action level of 15 ppb will be required to replace a minimum of three percent of LSLs annually.

Testing of Schools and Childcare Centers

EPA has also proposed a requirement for systems to annually test drinking water in 20% of schools and childcare centers in their service areas. Water systems must provide the results of these tests and information about the actions the school or childcare facility can take to reduce lead in drinking water.

EPA’s publication of the proposed revisions in the Federal Register is still forthcoming, and comments on the proposal will be due 60 days after that publication.

© 2020 Beveridge & Diamond PC


About this Author

Collin Gannon, litigation lawyer, Beveridge

Collin maintains a diverse practice focusing on environmental litigation and all environmental matters involving regulatory compliance, working with clients nationwide across industrial sectors. Prior to joining the firm, he served as a law clerk for U.S. District Judge James O. Browning of the U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico and for Chief Justice Barbara J. Vigil of the Supreme Court of New Mexico.

During his time at the University of Michigan Law School, Collin served as a Symposium Editor for the Michigan Journal of Law Reform and was a  ...

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Bina R. Reddy, Beveridge diamond law firm, environmental attorney

Bina Reddy is an Associate in the Washington, D.C. office of Beveridge & Diamond, P.C., with a general litigation, regulatory, and environmental practice. 

Bina has litigated on behalf of municipal and private clients in matters arising under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), Clean Water Act (CWA), analogous state statutes, and common law tort claims.  Bina has devoted a substantial portion of her practice to litigation under environmental citizen suit provisions, and has successfully defended numerous citizen suits under RCRA.  Bina also has experience litigating federal and state constitutional claims in connection with challenging local ordinances restricting or banning the use of biosolids on California farmland.

Eric Klein, environmental attorney, Beveridge & Diamond, P.C.

Eric L. Klein is an environmental civil litigator and regulatory counselor in the Washington, D.C. office of Beveridge & Diamond, P.C.  He has handled cases in state and federal courts throughout the United States, litigating a variety of complex civil and commercial matters before juries, trial and appellate courts, arbitrators and administrative tribunals.  Mr. Klein frequently litigates both statutory and common law claims, and specializes in challenging and defending technical experts in the litigation of complex environmental torts.