EPA announced its final version of the Lead and Copper Rule on December 22, 2020.
In broad terms, the final rule reflects many of the core elements of the November 2019 proposal, including:
- A requirement that utilities develop lead service line (LSL) inventories regardless of service line ownership, a necessary first step to eventually create an LSL removal program. Utilities must always pursue full lead service line replacement when disturbing a lead service line and are required to replace the utility-owned portion of a lead service when a customer elects to replace the customer-owned portion of the line.
- Utilities are required to test elementary schools and childcare facilities.
- The 15 µg/L lead action level (90th percentile lead level) remains unchanged, but there is a requirement for public notification within 24 hours if a system exceeds the lead action level.
- Corrosion control treatment requirements include a new “trigger level” (a 90th percentile lead level of 10 µg/L), that when exceeded a system that currently employs corrosion control would be required to re-optimize existing treatment. Systems that do not currently treat for corrosion control would be required to conduct a corrosion control study.
As of January 2014 revisions to the Safe Drinking Water Act made it illegal to install and pipe, or plumbing fitting or fixture, any solder, or any flux, during the installation or repair of a public water system or customer’s drinking water plumbing unless it meets the following definition of “lead-free”:
- Not containing more than 0.2 percent lead when used with respect to solder and flux; and
- Not more than a weighted average of 0.25 percent lead when used with respect to the wetted surfaces of pipes, pipe fittings, plumbing fittings, and fixtures.
The original version of the Lead and Copper Rule, published in 1991, requires all public drinking water systems regularly test a sample of high-risk homes for lead at the tap. If more than 10 percent of homes tested have lead concentrations higher than EPA “action level” of 15 parts per billion, individual water utilities are required to notify area residents via newspapers, radio, TV and other means. If the lead level remains consistently above the action level, the water supplier must take steps to control corrosion.