On December 22, 2020, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its final Lead and Copper Rule Revisions (LCR Revisions). The changes to the rule are designed to better protect children. Changes made to meet that goal include:
- 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 (LSLs)
The rule was published in the Federal Register on January 15, 2021 and was set to become effective 60 days after this publication date. A copy of the final rule is available HERE.
Recent developments, however, have left the status of this and other rules recently promulgated by EPA in limbo. During President Biden’s first day in office, White House Chief of Staff, Ron Klain, issued a memorandum calling for a freeze on regulations. This freeze impacts any regulation that was in review and also impacts regulations that had already been published in the Federal Register by requesting a 60-day delay in effective dates from the date of the memo and to provide an additional 30-day comment period.
Additionally, the rule’s implementation has uncertainty posed by law suits. On January 15, 2021, a coalition of environmental and civil rights groups represented by Earthjustice sued EPA for failing to protect children’s health and the safety of the drinking water of millions of people. They are concerned that the new rule slows down the rate at which LSLs are to be replaced and exempts small systems from replacing the lines altogether. Separately, on the same day, the Natural Resources Defense Council filed a similar suit to strike down the new rule. The group argues that EPA is legally obligated to establish a lead tap maximum contaminant level of 5 parts per billion.