EDF asks EPA to strengthen key lead service line definition, inventory, and notification provisions in its proposed revision to the LCR

Tom Neltner, J.D., Chemicals Policy Director, Lindsay McCormick, Program Manager, and Sam Lovell, Project Manager.

See all blogs in our LCR series.

Yesterday, EDF submitted comments to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on their proposed revisions to the Lead and Copper Rule (LCR), focusing on changes that EPA should to make to the:

  • Definition of a lead service line (LSL);
  • Requirements for water systems to develop LSL inventories; and
  • Notification of individual consumers who drink water that passes through an LSL.

We highlighted strengths and weaknesses of the LCR in a blog earlier this week, and we encourage states and communities to consider adopting the positive provisions now in addition to the changes we ask EPA to adopt in these comments. Below is a summary of our comments on these three issues. We plan to address other issues on the proposed revisions to the LCR in later comments.

Lead Service Line Definition

EPA’s proposed change to the current definition of an LSL at 40 CFR § 141.2 is flawed because it continues to exempt goosenecks, pigtails, or other connectors made of lead. These connectors are a major source of lead in drinking water not just because they are made of lead, but because they can release significant amounts of lead particulate into water as they flex with temperature, are scoured by turbulent water flow, and as other conditions change.

The exemption of these connectors from the definition of an LSL would render a water system’s LSL inventory and periodic notices to customers misleading because service lines described as “non-lead” may actually have some lead pipe in them. This will give residents a false sense of security. We recommend that the agency modify the proposed definition by deleting the exemption and explicitly stating that goosenecks, pigtails and connectors made of lead are LSLs.

Lead Service Line Inventory

With regard to a service line inventory, we share EPA’s view that an LSL inventory is a critical aspect of an overall program designed to reduce lead in drinking water. A good inventory can better inform decision-making and priority setting not only by the water system and the state, but also homeowners and others who drink the water that passes through the LSL.

In general, we support EPA’s approach to developing and communicating an LSL inventory at § 141.84(a), particularly:

  • Explicitly including the entire service line regardless of ownership;
  • Including “unknown” along with “lead” and “non-lead” as reporting categories for the inventory;
  • Requiring a “location identifier” for each LSL;
  • Requiring that the inventory be made publicly accessible and, for systems serving more than 100,000 persons, also electronically available; and
  • Requiring that the inventory be updated at least annually.

We recommend that EPA make several changes to the proposed inventory requirements to strengthen the approach and improve the effectiveness of the final rule. Specifically, we ask that the agency modify the proposed rule by:

  • Allowing the state to identify additional sources of information for categorizing service lines without modifying their version of the LCR;
  • Recognizing the uncertainties in the assignment of each service line to the “lead” and “non-lead” categories by explicitly providing criteria – such as 90% confidence – to the decision;
  • Making it clear that each service line must be categorized; and
  • Directing the state to make the locations of LSLs publicly accessible and integrate the inventories into an online tool.

Consumer Notice of LSLs

The proposal would require water systems to annually notify each consumer who drinks water that passes through an LSL, including a statement of its presence, an explanation of the health effects of lead, steps to reduce lead exposure, and more. It also requires that they be notified whenever the LSL is disturbed. We commend EPA for recognizing the importance of those who drink the water contaminated by the LSL.

Because the proposal would require notification to a wide-ranging list of people, from tenants in residential units, to office tenants, to consumers who visit a restaurant or children who visit a child-care facility, we ask that that EPA carefully consider how different types of water systems should notify consumers in the most common situations and create explicit requirements for these water systems to provide the most effective notices.

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