In the November 13, 2019 Federal Register the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its proposed revisions to the National Primary Drinking Water Regulation (NPDW) for lead and copper. The proposed rule sets lower lead and copper levels and amends the existing Lead and Copper Rule (LCR) by addressing lead tap sampling, corrosion control treatment, lead service line replacement, consumer awareness, and public education. The proposed rule does not include revisions to the copper requirements of the existing LCR. Additionally, the rule contains requirements for community water systems to conduct lead in drinking water testing and public education in schools and child care facilities. Public comments will be accepted through January 13, 2020.
Some of the major provisions of the proposed LCR revisions include the maintenance of action levels, inclusion of trigger levels, sampling procedures, corrosion control treatment, lead service line (LSL) inventory and replacement, awareness, and education.
EPA did not modify the lead action level, leaving the 15 parts-per-billion (ppb) lead action level intact. Instead, EPA created a 10 ppb trigger level, which requires utilities to consult with states about how to better use chemicals to prevent corrosion in lead pipes and begin the process of planning for the removal of lead pipes and how they would respond when the levels exceed the 15 ppb level. At the trigger level, systems that currently treat for corrosion would be required to re-optimize their existing treatment, while systems that do not treat for corrosion would be required to conduct a corrosion control study.
EPA’s proposed rule requires that all water systems complete and maintain an LSL inventory and collect tap samples from homes with LSLs if present in the distribution system. Water systems would be required to “find-and-fix” the causes of elevated lead levels in certain locations.
Under the proposal, if a customer chooses to replace their customer-owned portion of an LSL, the water system would be required to replace its portion of an LSL as well. Additionally, water systems would be required to initiate full LSL replacement programs where tap sampling shows lead levels exceed the existing action level and proposed trigger level. Systems above the trigger level but below the action level would be required to set an annual goal for conducting replacements. For systems above the action level, EPA would require the systems to annually replace three percent of the known or potential LSLs in the inventory at the time of the exceedance. This three percent level is less than the existing seven percent.
Systems would be required to notify customers of an action level exceedance within 24 hours. Systems would also be required to conduct regular outreach with homeowners and make the LSL inventory publicly available.
The proposed rule would remove calcium hardness as a corrosion control treatment (CCT) and require that any phosphate inhibitor be orthophosphate.
The collection procedure would require that samples must be collected in wide-mouth bottles and prohibit instructions that recommend the aerator be cleaned or removed, and for pre-stagnation flushing before collecting the sample.
Finally, community water systems serving schools and child care facilities would be required to sample drinking water outlets at each school and child care facility served by the system. The system would send the schools and facilities the results and provide information about how the schools and child care facilities can reduce lead in drinking water.