EPA invites stakeholders to LCR meeting
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December 19, 2017
EPA invites stakeholders to LCR meeting

EPA’s Office of Ground Water and Drinking Water has invited state and local organizations and other stakeholders to a meeting on January 8, 2018, to discuss the Agency’s upcoming proposal to amend the federal lead and copper rule (LCR). According to the letter, the Agency is currently in the process of evaluating potential regulatory changes to the existing LCR in the areas of tap sampling, corrosion control treatment (CCT), transparency, public education, full lead service line replacement, and copper.

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Established in 1991 under the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA), the LCR requires all but the smallest public water systems (PWSs) to implement a treatment technique (corrosion control) designed to reduce lead and copper in tap water. The EPA has accepted scientific and medical evidence that there is no level of exposure to lead that is without risk. Accordingly, the Agency has set the SDWA maximum contaminant level goal (MCLG) for lead at zero, and the LCR is intended to bring concentrations of lead and copper in drinking water to as close to zero as feasible.

Flint and 2016 recommendations

Concerns about the effectiveness of the LCR became national news in 2014 when high blood lead-levels were found in children in households receiving water from the city of Flint, Michigan. Based on Flint and similar findings in other cities, in October 2016, the EPA issued a white paper to establish the principles for reforming the LCR. The Agency noted that since its introduction, the LCR has brought about significant improvements in public health, including reducing the number of the nation’s large drinking water systems with a 90th percentile sample value exceeding the LCR action level (AL) of 15 parts per billion by over 90 percent.

“However, the regulation and its implementation are in urgent need of an overhaul,” the Agency stated. “Lead crises in Washington, DC, and in Flint, Michigan, and the subsequent national attention focused on lead in drinking water in other communities, have underscored significant challenges in the implementation of the current rule, including a rule structure that for many systems only compels protective actions after public health threats have been identified. Key challenges include the rule’s complexity, the degree of discretion it affords with regard to optimization of corrosion control treatment and compliance sampling practices that in some cases, may not adequately protect from lead exposure, and limited specific focus on key areas of concern such as schools. There is a compelling need to modernize and strengthen implementation of the rule—to strengthen its public health protections and to clarify its implementation requirements to make it more effective and more readily enforceable.”

The white paper included eight recommendations from the National Drinking Water Advisory Council, a federal advisory committee. These included changing the CCT requirements, increasing the frequency of water quality sampling, and expanding public education to involve customers more in testing their tap water.

Ideas will be solicited

In the letter, the Agency wrote that at the meeting, it will present background information on the rulemaking, answer questions from attendees, and invite input. Entities the EPA specifically asked to attend include the National Governors’ Association, the National League of Cities, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the National Association of Counties, the Environmental Council of States, the Association of State Drinking Water Administrators, the American Water Works Association, and the American Association of School Administrators.

In its Fall 2017 Regulatory Agency, the EPA states that it wants to issue its proposed changes to the LCR by August 2018 and a final rule by February 2020.

Information on the LCR is here.

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