Created as a service to our civil engineering community from the ASCE Texas Section Editorial Committee. This is the second article in a series featuring the Lead and Copper Rules (LCR). Bookmark this article to reference and check back for future releases in this series.
On December 16, 2021, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced new changes to the Lead and Copper Rule. Public Water Systems regardless of their age, condition, and location are required to investigate lead levels or the known presence of lead services lines within their jurisdictional boundaries. The 2021 EPA Lead and Copper Rule Revisions (LCRR) requires all public entities to conduct a study and develop a lead service line (LSL) inventory. This inventory and supporting documentation are required to be prepared, organized, and submitted to the Texas Commission on Environment Quality (TCEQ) for consideration of approval. The documents must be accessible to the public for viewing as requested. The deadline to complete and submit the LSL inventory and associated replacement plan to the TCEQ is October 16, 2024. The LCRR also includes requirements for public water systems to prepare a LSL Replacement Plan, changes to the Lead and Copper sampling plan, water system reporting, public educational requirements, and the introduction of new Lead trigger levels. The TCEQ is currently developing guidance documents to support public water systems for compliance with the LCRR.
While the TCEQ has not publicly released guidance documents for public water systems to conduct the lead service line inventory, many public entities are gearing up for this endeavor. Many within the industry believe the first step of this process will involve developing a comprehensive service line material inventory based on available records. Public water systems will need to compile and review all available as-builts drawings or construction records. The target is determining the approximate construction date. The EPA and TCEQ have suggested different requirements will be established for water systems with service lines installed prior to 1988 and those installed after 1988 and later. All water service line information regardless of public or private customers will need to be evaluated. Public water systems will be focused on the pipe material, , and line sizes associated with each service line to determine the presence of lead service lines. All information obtained will need to be organized, documented on the service line inventory, and formally submitted to the TCEQ for review. At this point, minimal information has been released on the LSL Replacement Plan and more information is scheduled to be released by the TCEQ later this year (2022).
The Lead and Copper Rule (LCR) protects public health by minimizing lead and copper levels in drinking water. Revisions to the 1991 rule increased the spotlight on water systems, primarily focusing on reducing corrosion in plumbing materials such as lead pipes, brass or bronze fixtures. Recently the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized its revisions to the rules which went into effect as of December 16, 2021, with the intent to strengthen the LCR by developing new regulations to reduce lead in drinking water. The EPA has since released a series of information and education material to better inform the public and public water systems of the upcoming regulatory changes.
Revisions to the Lead and Copper Rule
EPA’s new Lead and Copper Rule strengthens every aspect of the LCR to better protect children and communities from the risks of lead exposure by, removing lead from drinking water, and empowering communities to promote change. The U.S. has made great strides over the past two decades, reducing lead exposure detected in childhood blood lead levels. However compelling evidence suggests this is not enough. LCR established a Maximum Contaminant Level Goal (MCLG) of zero for lead. This is because no level of exposure to lead comes without risk. The Safe Drinking Water Act requires the EPA establish a treatment technique for contaminants like lead and copper that prevents known or anticipated health effects to the extent feasible. The LCR includes a series of actions to reduce lead exposure in drinking water where it is needed the most. The proposed rule will identify the most at-risk communities and ensure systems have plans in place to rapidly respond by taking actions to reduce elevated levels of lead in drinking water. Below is a summary of the new rule changes.
- Using science-based testing protocols to find more sources 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 schools and child care facilities.
- Requiring water systems to identify and make public the locations of lead service lines.
The LCR initial compliance date as released by the EPA is October 16, 2024. The EPA has indicated additional information and guidance for public water systems will be released in early 2022.
>> Series installments will be posted here. Stay tuned!