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EPA Releases Proposed Lead and Copper Rule Improvements

Proposed LCRI aims to replace all lead pipes in 10 years

Article from National Rural Water Association

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released the proposed Lead and Copper Rule Improvements (LCRI) on November 30, 2023.

As part of EPA's initiative to strengthen the Lead and Copper Rule, the proposed LCRI, which is expected to be finalized in the fall of 2024, aims to replace all lead pipes in 10 years.

"NRWA applauds EPA's effort to protect public health by removing lead from our nation's drinking water. We provide technical assistance, training, and education to small, rural water systems everyday as we work to meet the LCRI ambitious goals," said NRWA CEO Matt Holmes. "As an inaugural member of the Get the Lead Out Partnership, NRWA and our State Affiliates have been committed to this initiative from day one and look forward to reviewing the details of the LCRI and working with EPA to ensure our members are prepared to meet the challenges."

Key initiatives of the proposed LCRI include:

1. 100% lead pipe replacement in 10 years for the vast majority of public water systems. Only full-service line replacements will be allowed, and systems will be required to make multiple attempts to contact and gain access to private properties with lead service lines to fully complete replacement.

2. Locating legacy lead pipes. Currently, water systems are required to provide an initial inventory of their lead service lines by October 16, 2024. In the improvements, all systems would be required to update their inventories regularly, create a publicly available lead service line replacement plan, and identify the materials of all service lines of unknown material.

3. Key changes to tap sampling requirements. Systems would be required to collect first liter and fifth liter samples and use the higher of the two values when determining compliance with the rule.

4. The lead action level will be lowered from 15 parts per billion (ppb) to 10 ppb, requiring systems to inform the public if this limit is exceeded, and to take action to lower exposure while continuing to replace all lead pipes. The existing trigger level would also be eliminated to simplify implementation.

5. Strengthening protections to lower near-term exposure – systems with multiple lead action level exceedances will be required to perform additional outreach and make certified filters to reduce lead available to customers.

The agency estimates that the costs will be $2.1 billion to $3.6 billion per year for systems to come into compliance. Benefits are estimated at $9.8 billion to $34.8 billion per year. These are annualized figures over 35 years. EPA specifically noted that through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, systems have access to $15 billion specifically dedicated to this effort to help offset the costs of lead service line replacement.

Once the proposed rule is published in the Federal Register, stakeholders will have 60 days to provide written public comments. To submit comments visit the Federal Register, Docket ID Number: EPA-HQ-OW-2022-0801. The agency will also be holding a public hearing on January 16, 2024, to allow the public to provide verbal comments.

NRWA will be working through our Regulatory Committee to help craft and submit comments on behalf of our member systems to ensure that rural and small water systems perspectives are taken into account before the rule is finalized and implemented.

To learn more about EPA's proposed Lead and Copper Rule Improvements, visit their website here.

You can also view EPA's announcement of the proposed improvements here.

Mass Rural Water Association

781 Millers Falls Road, Northfield, MA 01360

Phone: 413-498-5779

Fax: 413-498-9943