EPA Lead and Copper Rule Revision
The EPA has just released its new Lead and Copper Rule Revision. This is the first major update to the rule in nearly 30 years.
In this new revision, EPA’s updated Lead and Copper Rule seeks to better protect children and communities from the risks of lead exposure by testing drinking water at elementary schools and child care facilities, modifying sampling requirements, improving corrosion control when elevated lead levels are found, and empowering communities through publicly available information. Changes under the new rule include:
New sample methods that include fifth-liter draws at sampling sites with LSLs
Establishing a trigger level to jumpstart mitigation earlier and in more communities
Developing plans for full lead service line replacement
Mandating testing in elementary schools and child care facilities
Requiring water systems to identify and make public the locations of lead service lines
Delay of Effective and Compliance Dates
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is delaying the effective date of the National Primary Drinking Water Regulations: Lead and Copper Rule Revisions (LCRR). The new effective date is December 16, 2021. The EPA is also delaying the LCRR compliance date to October 16, 2024. These delays are consistent with presidential directives issued in January 2021 that instructed the heads of Federal agencies to review certain regulations, such as the LCRR. These delays will allow the EPA to continue collecting feedback from key stakeholders via virtual engagements while ensuring that drinking water systems and primacy states are granted a full three years to become LCRR compliant. More detailed information about the LCRR delays is available here.
Changes to the LCR are divided into five categories:
Corrosion Treatment and Water Quality Guidelines
Requirements for Children in Schools and Child Care Facilities
Further details can be found in the EPA's Reference Guide for Public Water Systems.
In its Public Comment and Response document, the EPA encouraged the use of predictive models for lead service line (LSL) inventory, replacement, and communication. They state that “water systems may also create a strategy that involves proactive investigation of service line material compositions which is independent of other water system activities, such as the use of predictive models to evaluate the probability of a service line is lead and other methods provided or required by the state. Such predictive models could also inform water systems in how they can approach lead service line replacement (LSLR) in a more efficient manner.”
BlueConduit is the leader in using predictive models for LSL identification and materials inventory. Beyond being pioneers in this field, we have demonstrated success in multiple water systems and continue to innovate in ways that increase accuracy and efficiency for our customers. Our commitment to transparency in our methods fosters trust and collaboration with customers and stakeholders.
BlueConduit can help guide you through these rule changes and be a strong partner in your plan development and implementation. BlueConduit uses machine learning to reduce uncertainty around LSLs and produce sound estimates of the number of LSLs in a system and home-by-home probabilities of LSL location. Knowing these probabilities can guide your organization in cost-effectively developing your inventory and replacement programs. Moreover, BlueConduit’s mapping capabilities can help characterize these probabilities in a clear and understandable way for public communication.
Contact Us: info@BlueConduit.com
Service Line Inventory and Replacement Requirements
All water systems have three years to develop an initial LSL inventory or demonstrate the absence of LSLs. The inventories will be publicly accessible and must be updated periodically. Systems then must develop an LSL replacement plan based on their inventories. Predictive modeling is specified in the rule as a helpful strategy in guiding inventory and replacement programs.
The finalized rule reduces the required minimum annual LSL replacement rate from 7% to 3% for exceedances of the lead action level of 15 μg/L. The rule also introduces a new trigger level of 10 μg/L, whereby exceedances would require states to work with a utility on a goal-based replacement program.
All water systems subject to the LCR will be required to create a publicly accessible LSL inventory within three years. These inventories must identify service line material as lead, galvanized requiring replacement, not lead, or lead status unknown. The inventories must reflect the entire service line from the main to the building inlet regardless of ownership. Some utilities do not have records on the private side of the service line, and this rule reflects a change in what they are expected to know and report.
At a minimum, materials included in the inventory are to be on the basis of available records including plumbing codes, permits, building department records, and water system records. BlueConduit can use this information to characterize and identify probabilities of all service line material types. Notably, the finalized rule encourages that predictive models be used as an approach to “inform water systems in how they can approach LSLR in a more efficient manner.”
There are triggers in the rule revisions for achieving minimum replacement rates. Mandatory replacement programs can be triggered for either: (1) a lead action level exceedance of 15 μg/L, which would result in the requirement of the minimum annual replacement rate of 3% for large systems (smaller systems have alternative compliance options) or (2) an exceedance of the new lead trigger level of 10 μg/L, which would result in the state needing to propose a replacement rate. This 3% rate is a decrease from the previously required 7% for systems that exceed 15 μg/L.
All water systems with known or possible LSLs (regardless of lead levels) will be required to immediately prepare an LSL replacement plan that includes: (1) a strategy for funding full LSL replacement; (2) proposing an annual LSL replacement rate in the event of an action level exceedance; and (3) implementing procedures for replacing LSLs, including customer notifications and provision of pitcher filters for affected households.
The initial inventory must be submitted to the state primacy agency within three years from final rule publication. Water systems have a lot of unknowns when it comes to service line materials and these unknowns can be difficult to communicate to the public -- BlueConduit tools and expertise can help characterize these uncertainties for inventory planning and public communication.
The LCR revisions impose new public notification requirements for SL material identification, as well as for when sampling exceeds the action/trigger levels.
Within 30 days of completing its initial LSL inventory and annually thereafter, water systems with LSLs must provide notice to households with service lines made of lead or lead status unknown. The LCR specifies the notice must include information about the health effects of lead, steps customers can take to reduce lead exposure, and how to identify and remove an LSL.
Systems that serve more than 50,000 people must post the inventory on their websites, whereas other systems just must make the inventory publicly available in some way (e.g., having it available for viewing at the clerk’s office). BlueConduit’s mapping capabilities can help utilities prepare online public inventories and parcel-level maps that are easily accessible. This image shows a screenshot of the map BlueConduit developed for Flint, Michigan.
Once LSL inventories have been created, water systems are required to provide public education to customers in advance of infrastructure work that will affect LSLs and lead status unknown service lines.
The water system must take a follow-up tap sample between three and six months after completion of any LSL replacement, and provide those results to the building’s residents. When a gooseneck is encountered or LSL replacement occurs on an emergency basis, the system has 24 hours to deliver the required pitcher filter and educational information.
Water systems will be required to notify the occupants of the residence where the tap was sampled of results within 24 hours when an individual observation is above the lead action level.
These public notification requirements will impose a new burden on utilities, especially for those systems that do not already have public communication strategies in place -- BlueConduit can help mitigate public concern surrounding uncertainties by developing easily understandable categories of lead likelihood for a utility’s inventory (e.g., “Likely Lead,” “Likely Not Lead,” “Lead,” and “Non-lead,”).
The rule adds a fifth-liter sample to water testing to better identify the potential source of lead.
It also expands sampling and reporting requirements based on the action and trigger levels with a “find-and-fix” strategy of taking corrective action once exceedances are observed.
To help identify areas most in need of remediation, the LCR revision prioritizes collecting samples from sites served by LSLs. This includes maintaining the existing requirement of first-liter sampling in homes without LSLs and imposing a new requirement of fifth-liter sampling in homes with LSLs. These samples will be collected after the water has been stagnant for at least 6 hours.
To reduce elevated levels of lead in certain locations, the rule revision requires water systems to “find-and-fix” the causes of these elevated levels. Now, individual tap samples that exceed the action level of 15 μg/L require an additional tap sample to be collected within 30 days and corrective actions to be taken.
Semi-annual sampling is now required of systems without compliant data and of systems with 90th percentile lead or copper levels greater than the action level (15 μg/L). Annual sampling will be required of systems with LSLs and of systems with 90th percentile lead or copper levels greater than the trigger level (10 μg/L) but less than the action level (15 μg/L).
Water sample results can be an input to a predictive model, should a water system choose to ultimately use one.
While states have the authority to require a system to evaluate corrosion control at any time, the rule explicitly requires evaluations when a system exceeds either the lead trigger level or action level (see next section).
BlueConduit can introduce you to the appropriate organization(s) that can assist you in Sampling Requirements.
Corrosion Control Treatment and Water Quality Guidelines
The LCR specifies corrosion control treatment (CCT) requirements and water quality parameters for systems based on lead sampling results and system size.
For systems with 90th percentile lead levels of 10 to 15 μg/L, if the system does not have CCT, it must conduct a CCT study if required by the state primacy agency. If the system does have CCT, it must follow steps for re-optimizing its CCT.
Systems with 90th percentile lead levels greater than 15 μg/L that do not currently have CCT must install CCT immediately regardless of subsequent lead levels. Those with CCT must also re-optimize.
Community water systems serving fewer than 10,000 people and non-transient water systems can select an option other than CCT to address lead exceedances.
Systems serving more than 50,000 people must conduct regular water quality parameter monitoring at entry points and within the distribution system. Systems serving fewer than 50,000 people must continue water quality parameter monitoring until they no longer exceed lead action levels for two consecutive 6-month monitoring periods.
If an individual tap sample exceeds 15 μg/L, systems must collect a follow-up sample at each location, conduct water quality parameter monitoring at or near the site, and perform needed corrective action. Such requirements are referred to as “find-and-fix” protocols.
BlueConduit can introduce you to the appropriate organization(s) that can assist you with Corrosion Control Treatment and Water Quality Guidelines.
Schools and Child Care Facilities
Water systems must conduct lead in drinking water testing at 20% of elementary schools and licensed child care facilities in their service areas each year and conduct sampling at secondary schools on request.
Sample results must be provided to each sampled school/child care facility, the primacy agency, and the local or state health department. This requirement excludes facilities built or those that have replaced all plumbing after January 1, 2014.
BlueConduit can introduce you to the appropriate organization(s) that can assist you with navigating testing in Schools and Child Care Facilities.
EPA Public Comment and Response
In its “Public Comment and Response” document, the EPA encouraged the use of predictive models for lead service line (LSL) inventory, replacement, and communication. They state that “water systems may also create a strategy that involves proactive investigation of service line material compositions which is independent of other water system activities, such as the use of predictive models to evaluate the probability of a service line is lead and other methods provided or required by the state. Such predictive models could also inform water systems in how they can approach lead service line replacement (LSLR) in a more efficient manner.”