Environment & Energy Report

October Will See New Regulations on Lead in Water, Wheeler Says

Oct. 1, 2019, 5:01 PM

New EPA regulations on lead in drinking water that have been in the works for more than eight years will finally see the light of day this month, Administrator Andrew Wheeler said Oct. 1.

Wheeler said the Environmental Protection Agency’s long-awaited proposal to overhaul of the way it handles lead in tap water will be unveiled before the end of October. He spoke at a lead conference in Baltimore County, Md., hosted by the EPA’s mid-Atlantic regional office.

These regulations, officially known as the Lead and Copper Rule, went into effect in 1991 and haven’t been substantially updated since then.

The EPA has been struggling to beef up its lead standards since 2011, long before the water crisis in Flint, Mich., brought the issue of lead contamination to international attention. (RIN: 2040-AF15)

A main impediment has been figuring out how to mandate the replacement of lead pipes, also known as service lines, without placing an unmanageable financial burden on the water utilities that own them.

Wheeler said EPA staff presented him with an updated version of the rule shortly after he was appointed as administrator last year, but he sent this proposal back.

Hewas concerned their proposal wouldn’t ensure the most corrosive lead pipes across the country were prioritized for removal first, he said.

“I want to make sure the last mile of lead service lines was not the most corrosive,” Wheeler said. “I was concerned that affluent communities could replace the lead service lines upfront, but poorer communities, environmental justice communities, might wait.”

To contact the reporter on this story: David Schultz in Washington at dschultz@bloombergenvironment.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Gregory Henderson at ghenderson@bloombergenvironment.com; Chuck McCutcheon at cmccutcheon@bloombergenvironment.com; Rob Tricchinelli at rtricchinelli@bloombergenvironment.com

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