AWWA, water organizations react to proposed LCR updates

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently announced its proposed revisions to the Lead and Copper Rule, which addresses lead in drinking water. David LaFrance, CEO of the American Water Works Association (AWWA), issued the following statement:

The American Water Works Association (AWWA) is committed to advancing strong consumer protections today while we work for a future where lead is no longer in contact with the water we drink. The Long-Term Lead and Copper Rule (LCR) released today represents an important step forward in addressing lead risks. While it’s too soon to offer a detailed analysis of the rule, a few important points stand out.

Under the proposed rule, all water systems would develop and update lead service line inventories. This is a necessary first step in developing plans to remove lead service lines and helping households and community leaders understand the scope of the lead challenge.

It’s also notable that the proposed rule requires the development of plans to remove all lead service lines. Identifying and removing lead services lines – many of which are located on private property – can only be achieved through cooperation among water utilities, property owners, public health officials, government at all levels, philanthropy, consumers and others. It is a complicated challenge, but also solvable. AWWA is proud to be an active participant in the Lead Service Line Replacement Collaborative, which offers helpful guidance on accelerating lead service line replacement.

Replacing lead service lines nationwide will take many years, and even when they are gone, lead components may still be present in home and building plumbing. Therefore, utilities must continue to be vigilant in monitoring and adjusting water chemistry to prevent lead from corroding into drinking water. The new rule underscores the importance of corrosion control and assures that utilities take corrective steps if household sampling suggests lead may be a problem. AWWA will continue to provide the technical guidance necessary to help its members meet the rule’s new corrosion control and sampling requirements.

Clear and transparent communication is critical to helping water consumers protect their households from lead. Consumers should understand how lead can get into drinking water and the short- and longer-term steps they can take to reduce risks. AWWA supports regular public outreach to water consumers, especially those at highest risk from lead.

The new LCR is an opportunity to build on decades of progress in reducing lead exposure. Despite setbacks like the Flint, Mich., experience, nationwide efforts to reduce exposure to lead from all sources – paint, gasoline, toys, soil and dust, drinking water – have resulted in a dramatic reduction in lead exposure in the United States over the past 45 years. As EPA pointed out in its 2016 white paper on the LCR revisions, the median blood lead levels for young children have decreased ten-fold since the mid-1970s. The number of large water systems out of compliance with the LCR has dropped by 90 percent since the rule’s initial implementation.

Still, important work remains. AWWA looks forward to working with EPA, states and utilities to find safe and affordable approaches that achieve further risk reduction and improved confidence in drinking water.

Several other water sector associations representing public utility interests also commented on the EPA’s proposed updates.

“The Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies has been involved with the Lead and Copper Rule since its inception and values all the work that EPA has done to decrease the risk of lead and copper to public health,” said AMWA CEO Diane VanDe Hei. “The proposed revisions are an important next step and AMWA supports EPA’s efforts to address this complicated issue. AMWA looks forward to working with EPA to best protect the health of the millions of people that depend on their local public utilities for safe and reliable drinking water.”

“The National Rural Water Association stands ready to train and assist  rural and small communities to meet the requirements of the new lead and copper rule and achieve our common goal of lead free drinking water,” said NRWA CEO Sam Wade. “This is something supported by the industry as a whole, after all, those who govern, manage and operate water systems drink the water they produce as do their children and family.  Quality on Tap is their commitment and their profession.”

“ASDWA applauds EPA for getting the proposed Long-Term Revisions for the Lead and Copper Rule (LT-LCR) finished and signed,” the Association of State Drinking Water Administrators said in a statement. “This proposal builds upon the successes and the lessons learned from the 1991 LCR on how the drinking water community can continue to reduce lead levels in drinking water. ASDWA looks forward to continuing to work with EPA on implementing the final LT-LCR as this rule applies to almost 80,000 water systems and implementation of the final LT-LCR is going to be a big lift.”

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