On December 16, 2021, EPA announced the development of a new regulation—the Lead and Copper Rule Improvements (LCRI)—to better protect communities from exposure to lead in drinking water. This regulation would amend the Lead and Copper Rule Revisions (LCRR), which became effective the same day. The goal of the LCRI is to provide additional health protection from lead in drinking water. The Agency made the determination to continue work on the lead regulation after reviewing the LCRR in response to Executive Order 13990, Protecting Public Health and the Environment and Restoring Science To Tackle the Climate Crisis. The E.O., which was issued by President Biden on January 20, 2021, required agencies to undertake an immediate review of agency actions taken between January 20, 2017, and January 20, 2021. The E.O. required agencies to consider suspending, revising, or rescinding these actions after completion of a detailed review. EPA anticipates revising the LCRR with new requirements in the LCRI prior to October 16, 2024. EPA has issued a Fact Sheet containing its known next steps for managing lead in drinking water risks. As part of the LCRI development, EPA will consider opportunities to strengthen tap sampling requirements and explore options to reduce the complexity and confusion associated with the action level and trigger level.
Part of the reason the Agency wanted the LCRR to become effective on December 16, 2021 is because it didn’t want the LCRR’s requirements for completing an inventory of lead service lines (LSLs) to be delayed. Preparing a LSL inventory is the first step for their removal, a key priority of the Biden Administration. EPA Administrator Michael Regan is quoted as saying “These conversations have underscored the need to proactively remove lead service lines, especially in low-income communities. The science on lead is settled—there is no safe level of exposure and it is time to remove this risk to support thriving people and vibrant communities.” The LCRI announcement is a key part of the Biden Administration’s whole-of- government approach to reducing lead risk. AWWA CEO David LaFrance is quoted as saying “Tremendous progress has been made in lead risk reduction since the first Lead and Copper Rule was introduced in 1991, but more work remains. … We look forward to working closely with the Administration, states, and partners to accelerate lead service line replacement in a collaborative and efficient manner.”