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EPA Finalizes Historic Action to Better Protect Children’s Health

The first major update in 30 years strengthens every aspect of the Lead and Copper Rule

12/22/2020
Contact Information: 
EPA Press Office (press@epa.gov)

WASHINGTON (December 22, 2020) — Today, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler was joined by U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Ben Carson, Flint, Mich. Mayor Sheldon Neeley, Springfield, Ill. Mayor Jim Langfelder, Wisconsin State Senator Robert Cowles, Pennsylvania State Senator Camera Bartolotta, and Jefferson County, Colo. Commissioner Libby Szabo to announce the first major update to the agency’s Lead and Copper Rule (LCR) in nearly 30 years. This historic action strengthens every aspect of the LCR and accelerates actions that reduce lead in drinking water to better protect children from lead exposure.

“This new Lead and Copper Rule will protect children and families from exposure to lead in drinking water,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “For the first time in nearly thirty years, this action incorporates best practices and strengthens every aspect of the rule, including closing loopholes, accelerating the real world pace of lead service line replacement, and ensuring that lead pipes will be replaced in their entirety.”

In older homes and buildings, lead can leach from service lines, solder, and fixtures into tap water and become a significant source of lead exposure. In children, lead exposure can cause irreversible and life-long health effects, including decreasing IQ, focus, and academic achievement. The U.S. has made tremendous progress in lowering children’s blood lead levels by phasing lead out of gasoline, banning lead paint, and implementing the old LCR. However, the old rule included deficiencies that are fixed by EPA’s new Lead and Copper Rule. For example, the old rule created so many loopholes that only 1 percent of utilities actually replaced lead pipes as a result of an action level exceedance. The old LCR also allowed up to 48 months to pass in our small towns before corrosion control was in place after a water system exceeded the action level and failed to require all systems to test for lead in drinking water in their elementary schools or child care facilities.

EPA’s new Lead and Copper Rule better protects children and communities from the risks of lead exposure by testing drinking water at elementary schools and child care facilities, getting the lead out of our nation’s drinking water, and empowering communities through information. Improvements under the new rule include:

  • Using science-based testing to better locate elevated levels of lead in drinking water.
  • Establishing a trigger level to jumpstart mitigation earlier and in more communities.
  • Driving more and complete lead service line replacements.
  • For the first time, requiring testing in elementary schools and child care facilities.
  • Requiring water systems to identify and make public the locations of lead service lines.

“The revised LCR is a substantial milestone in our continued collective efforts across the country to remove lead from our communities,” said Wisconsin State Senator Robert Cowles. “Whether it’s local efforts such as those taken by Green Bay, Wisconsin to finish the removal of every lead lateral, statewide efforts such as those I’ve lead in Wisconsin to increase local flexibility for remediation strategies, or federal efforts such as the laudable LCR revisions, it’s pivotal that all levels of government stay involved in the fight to invest in our future by protecting children’s health. Thank you to Administrator Wheeler and the EPA for your important work on the revised LCR.” 

“I applaud the EPA’s announcement today to further protect the health of our communities by strengthening our nation’s lead requirements. Identifying water systems with lead service lines, mandating replacements and providing federal funding opportunities are vital steps to ensuring the children in our schools and every citizen across our Commonwealth has access to safe drinking water,” said Pennsylvania State Senator Camera Bartolotta.

“Like other communities across the United States, lead service line replacement is one of the infrastructure challenges cities face. With our municipally-owned utility, Springfield is continuing our work to help homeowners reduce lead risks. We appreciate the U.S. EPA’s efforts to help cities across our nation provide a solid path for lead pipe replacement initiatives, to protect our most vulnerable populations, especially our children,” said Springfield, Ill. Mayor Jim Langfelder.

“Association of State Drinking Water Administrators (ASDWA) commends EPA for getting the final LCR to the finish line and it’s a big step forward in reducing lead exposure and protecting public health. Implementing this regulation is going to require a significant collaborative effort between ASDWA’s members, EPA, and the water systems and their customers. Getting the lead out by removing lead service lines is a major infrastructure effort that is going to take significant commitments by all involved,” said ASDWA Executive Director Alan Roberson.

“The American Water Works Association (AWWA) is committed to protecting public health and commends EPA for publishing a final revised Lead and Copper Rule. We look forward to reviewing the rule in detail and assisting our 50,000 members in understanding and implementing it in their communities,” said AWWA CEO David LaFrance. 

For more information on the new LCR, visit: https://www.epa.gov/ground-water-and-drinking-water/final-revisions-lead-and-copper-rule.

For information on lead service line replacement, visit www.epa.gov/safewater/pipereplacement.

Background

Under Administrator Wheeler’s leadership, in December 2018 EPA with its federal partners announced the Federal Action Plan to Reduce Childhood Lead Exposures and Associated Health Impacts. As part of the Plan, EPA is working to address lead in water systems across the country, including undertaking the first major overhaul of the Lead and Copper Rule since 1991. In addition, EPA is working with states to ensure that the existing Lead and Copper Rule is being properly implemented.