Laws and Regulations
Safe Drinking Water Act
The Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) is the main federal law that ensures the quality of Americans' drinking water. Under SDWA, EPA sets standards for drinking water quality and oversees the states, localities, and water suppliers who implement those standards.
EPA recognized that lead can leach from plumbing products into the water being distributed by public water suppliers for drinking. EPA authorities, however, are limited to requiring public water suppliers to meet the regulations governing treated water quality distributed via the public system. These authorities do not allow EPA to require homeowners to replace their plumbing systems if they contain lead. To reduce consumers' lead exposure through tap water, EPA has used its available authorities to require public water suppliers to treat their water to make it as minimally corrosive as possible to metals in their customers' plumbing systems. These treatment requirements were promulgated in EPA's Lead and Copper Rule (LCR) on June 7, 1991.
Using this approach, the Lead and Copper Rule is not designed to measure health risks to individual consumers, but is centered upon measuring overall corrosivity of the treated water using worst-case lead and copper sample site data as an indicator of the effectiveness of corrosion control treatment.
The Lead and Copper Rule has four main functions:
1) determine tap water levels of lead and copper at customers who have lead service lines or lead-based solder in their plumbing systems;
2) rule out the source water as a source of significant lead levels;
3) require water suppliers to optimize their treatment systems to control corrosion in customers' plumbing; and
4) if action levels are exceeded, require the suppliers to educate their customers about lead and suggest actions they can take to reduce their exposure to lead through public notices and public education programs.