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Lead and Copper Rule (LCR)

TexASCE Editorial Committee (Michael Gurka PE)

Created as a service to our civil engineering community from the ASCE Texas Section Editorial Committee. This is the first 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. 

February 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

Figure 1: https://www.epa.gov/sites/default/files/2017-08/documents/epa_lead_in_drinking_water_final_8.21.17.pdf

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!

Additional Resources

  • https://www.epa.gov/dwreginfo/lead-and-copper-rule
  • https://www.tceq.texas.gov/drinkingwater/chemicals/lead_copper