Biden’s EPA takes further action to mandate LSL replacement

On Dec. 16, 2021, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) long-awaited Lead and Copper Rule Revisions (LCRR) took effect, nearly a year after they were finalized by the then-outgoing Trump Administration. The Biden administration marked the occasion by announcing a new Lead Pipe and Paint Action Plan that will seek to achieve the White House’s goal of replacing 100 percent of lead service lines nationwide, including by pursuing further changes to the LCRR.

According to a fact sheet published by the White House, the new Action Plan will trigger more than 15 new federal actions. These include formally allocating funding for lead service line replacements that was included in recently enacted infrastructure legislation, clarifying that states and communities can draw on $350 billion appropriated as part of COVID-19 relief legislation to replace lead service lines and interior plumbing, and immediately “launching a new regulatory process to protect communities from lead in drinking water.”

statement issued by EPA last week offered more details on the agency’s regulatory plans. While EPA allowed the Trump-era LCRR to take effect “to advance critical lead service line inventories,” it will also begin to develop a new rule, called the Lead and Copper Rule Improvements (LCRI), “that will strengthen the regulatory framework.” The agency specifically intends to propose regulatory changes that “would result in the replacement of all lead service lines as quickly as is feasible,” while also exploring ways to strengthen tap sampling requirements and “reduce the complexity and confusion associated with the action level and trigger level.”

The new regulatory process will be put in motion by a new Federal Register notice set for publication in the coming days. A pre-publication version made available last week said “the existing LCRR requirements and action by selected states and federal funding initiatives may not be sufficient to achieve 100 percent replacement of LSLs…without additional actions.” As a result, the agency’s new rulemaking will propose new requirements that would lead to the replacement of all LSLs, while doing so in a way that focuses on disadvantaged communities and those most affected by lead in drinking water.

EPA plans to finalize the LCRI by Oct. 16, 2024, which is the date by which public water systems must comply with the existing LCRR. The agency does not plan a wholesale overhaul of the LCRR and will leave in place the requirement for public water systems to conduct and submit lead service line inventories on the existing schedule. Development of these inventories, EPA said, will enable water systems “to quickly implement other LCRR requirements, as well as any improvements made through the planned LCRI rulemaking.”

In July AMWA submitted comments to EPA outlining potential improvements to the LCRR but warning against broad replacement mandates that water systems may not be able to achieve without the cooperation of individual property owners. AMWA plans to closely track the development of the LCRI and will engage with its membership to develop detailed comments when the new rules are proposed.

Source: Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies

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