Selected category: States

Report: Grading the nation on lead pipe disclosure policies

Lindsay McCormick is a Project Manager.  

When purchasing a home, buyers expect to be informed about deficiencies, defects, or environmental hazards on the property. Since 1996, there have been federal policies to alert buyers about lead in paint. However, the likelihood that a buyer will be told their prospective home has lead pipes, including a lead service line, depends on the state in which they live.

Lead service lines (LSLs) – the lead pipes connecting water mains under the street to homes and other buildings – are the primary source of lead in drinking water. Up to 10 million homes across the nation continue to receive water through LSLs, putting millions at risk of lead exposure. Homebuyers deserve to know about this liability when they choose a home and negotiate a price. When done properly, removing the full LSL significantly reduces the risk of lead exposure.

Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) analyzed and graded the housing disclosure policies of all U.S. states and the District of Columbia according to their ability to help homebuyers make informed decisions about LSLs before they sign a sales contract by assessing state disclosure laws, required disclosure forms, and voluntary disclosure forms.  We did not address the extent to which LSLs are actively being disclosed under each policy. Read More »

Also posted in Drinking Water, lead| Tagged , | Comments are closed

California requires replacement of all lead service lines – but vigilance needed on implementation

Tom Neltner, J.D.is Chemicals Policy Director

In 2016, California became the first state in the country to make enforceable commitments to eliminating all lead service lines (LSLs) in the state.  These lead pipes that connect the main under the street to homes are the primary source of lead in drinking water and unpredictably release lead particulate when disturbed.  Under the leadership of Senator Connie Leyva, the state’s Senate voted unanimously, and the Assembly voted 72 to 7 to pass SB1398 to require drinking water utilities to inventory LSLs in use and then provide the State Water Resources Control Board (Water Board) a timeline for replacement of the lines.

Based on a national survey of utilities, the American Water Works Association reported that California has 65,000 LSLs out of 6.1 million nationally.  Large utilities have the most with 46,000 LSLs, medium systems have 4,700 and small systems have 15,000.  However, most utilities do not have an accurate inventory of LSLs, so the true number may be much greater.

California’s SB1398 recognized that an accurate inventory was critical and laid out a thoughtful two-step plan to accomplish the objective of full LSL replacement.  By July 1, 2018, it requires public water systems (PWS) to submit an inventory of known LSLs and a timeline for their replacement.  Two years later, PWSs must submit an updated inventory of LSLs and provide a timeline to replace any service line where it may be made of lead.  The law does not set a deadline for replacement that PWSs must meet.

This two-step approach makes replacing known LSLs the highest priority and, by essentially presuming that a service line is lead unless known otherwise, also creates an incentive for PWSs to develop accurate inventories in the next three years.

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Cincinnati and Ohio show leadership in identifying and disclosing lead service lines

Tom Neltner, J.D.is Chemicals Policy Director

Transparency is an essential aspect of any successful program to reduce lead in drinking water. Knowing if you have a lead service line (LSL)—the pipe that connects the main under the street to the building—can help you decide whether to use a filter or replace the line. If you are looking for a home to rent or buy, the presence of a LSL can be a factor in your choice. Transparency can also help reassure consumers that their utility is aware of the problem and committed to protecting their health. The challenge for many water suppliers is that they often don’t have perfect information about the presence of LSLs. But incomplete information is not a reason for failing to disclose what is known, what is uncertain, and what is unknown.

In a February 29, 2016 letter to the states, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) asked states to increase transparency by posting on either the state's website or have it posted on local utilities' websites:

“the materials inventory that systems were required to complete under the [Lead and Copper Rule] including the locations of lead service lines [LSLs], together with any more updated inventory or map of lead service lines and lead plumbing in the system.”

In response to this letter and systemic issues brought to light about lead in drinking water in the village of Sebring, Ohio and Flint, Michigan, the State of Ohio enacted pragmatic legislation crafted by Governor John Kasich’s administration and the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (Ohio EPA). Among its supporters was the Ohio Environmental Council. One provision in the law requires community water systems to

“identify and map areas of their system that are known or are likely to contain lead service lines and identify characteristics of buildings served by the system that may contain lead piping, solder, or fixtures . . .”

Utilities must submit the information to Ohio EPA as well as the departments of Health and of Job and Family Services by March 9, 2017 and update this information every five years.

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Mapping lead service lines: DC Water offers a model for utilities across the nation

Washington, DC’s water utility launched a helpful interactive map allowing residents to see whether water pipes are lead, non-lead, or if there’s no available information for nearly every building and public water source across DC – including residences, restaurants, retailers, schools, drinking water fountains, and even the White House and Smithsonian.

Lindsay McCormick is a Research Analyst.

When I moved to Washington, DC four years ago the phrase “lead service lines” did not roll off my tongue. That began to change as I became aware of DC’s historical lead problems – and dramatically so in the wake of the crisis in Flint, Michigan.

But I’m not alone.  Even though experts estimate that up to 10 million homes across the U.S. have lead service lines – lead pipes connecting the drinking water main in the street to the home – it’s an issue that is not well understood by most Americans.

And that should come as no surprise given that few water utilities across the U.S. can even say with confidence where the lead services lines are in their systems, and fewer still proactively share what information they have with customers.  Lead service lines are an aging infrastructure, typically found in communities with older housing.  Local recordkeeping over the years has been inconsistent, leaving many utilities today to rely on incomplete, difficult to access, or non-electronic historical records. Many communities appear to have no documentation of when they ceased installing lead service lines altogether.

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Also posted in EPA, lead| Tagged , | Comments are closed

UPDATED: Understanding Preemption in the Lautenberg Act

FRL21 Preemption sidebar UPDATEDRichard Denison, Ph.D.is a Lead Senior Scientist.

[*UPDATED 5-8-15:  This is a new version of an earlier post that I’ve updated to reflect changes made to the preemption provisions in the bill as reported out by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on April 28, 2015.]

By far the most difficult and contentious aspect of the debate over reform of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) is the extent of federal preemption of state authority.  The range of positions on this is truly gigantic, from zero preemption at one end of the spectrum to full-field preemption effective upon enactment (the position espoused by some in industry).

The Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act (S. 697) has landed somewhere in the middle of this spectrum, with some stakeholders saying it still goes too far and others saying not far enough.  And wherever you land on that question, it should be acknowledged that preemption in the bill is more extensive than under current TSCA, but much less extensive than it was in the predecessor to the Lautenberg Act, 2013’s Chemical Safety Improvement Act (CSIA).

There has been a lot of confusion surrounding preemption in the Lautenberg Act.  So in this post, I describe how preemption works under the bill, and what is and is not preempted.

In the sidebar is a summary of the key preemption provisions of the Lautenberg Act.  The rest of this post is a deeper dive for those who want one.

Preemption under the Lautenberg Act

The first thing to recognize is that any preemption that applies is always chemical-specific and directly matches the nature and scope of the triggering federal action.  That is, preemption attaches only when EPA acts on the same chemical that has been or would be subject to a state action, and only when EPA considers the need for or takes the same type of action as has been or would be taken by a state.  And preemption is limited to the scope of the EPA action (for example, the specific uses of a chemical considered by EPA).

Outside of these boundaries, states are free to act on chemicals.  The new system would be similar to the current system except when EPA decides a chemical is a high priority and may require federal action.

Below I discuss the major components to the preemption provisions of the Lautenberg Act.

Read More »

Also posted in Health Policy, TSCA Reform| Tagged | Comments are closed

Evidence grows linking DEHP exposure to reproductive toxicity: What is the state of regulation?

Lindsay McCormick is a Research Analyst.

Phthalates are chemical plasticizers found in a wide array of industrial and consumer products, including polyvinyl chloride (PVC) piping and tubing, cosmetics, medical devices, plastic toys, and food contact materials.  Because phthalates are often not strongly chemically bound to these products, they can leach out of those products and into the environment around us. Given this, it may not be surprising that phthalates and their metabolites can be measured in the bodies of nearly all people tested.

This post reports on important new research on DEHP and summarizes the state of regulation of the chemical in the U.S. and abroad.   Read More »

Also posted in Emerging Science, EU REACH, Health Policy, Health Science, Regulation| Tagged | Comments are closed
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