EPA’s proposed lead rule fails to ensure safe drinking water

Media Contacts

Environment America urges stronger policies to Get the Lead Out

Environment America

Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its long-awaited proposal to update to the federal Lead and Copper Rule. 

John Rumpler, clean water program director for Environment America, made the following statement in response:

“As proposed, EPA’s long-awaited update to the Lead and Copper Rule falls far short of the decisive action needed to “get the lead out” of our drinking water. And in a few critical provisions, the proposed rule could even take us backwards.  

Lead contaminates a wide cross-section of Americans’ drinking water, even the faucets and fountains at our children’s schools and child care centers. Unfortunately, while the EPA’s proposed rule offers some enhanced testing and monitoring, it lacks the bold action necessary to ensure safe drinking water for all Americans as soon as possible. Serious shortcomings of the proposed rule include:

  • A complete failure to appropriately address lead service lines. These toxic pipes remain the single greatest source of lead contamination of water at millions of homes, child care centers, and other places. A robust rule would order full replacement of all these toxic pipes within 10 years or less. Instead, EPA would require an inventory of them. And while current law requires water utilities out of compliance to remove lead service lines at a rate of 7 percent a year, the proposed rule would slow that pace to 3 percent per year.  

  • Standards that are not health-based. Health experts say that there is no safe level of lead in water. So while lowering the “action level” for lead to 10 parts per billion (ppb) is a step in the right direction, it is nowhere near the 1 ppb limit that pediatricians are urging schools to adopt, or even the 5 ppb standard that the FDA has set for bottled water.

  • No requirements to “get the lead out” of schools. Our research shows that even though lead contaminates the drinking water in many schools, states are still failing to require action to correct it. Safeguarding water at our kids’ schools and child care centers will require pro-actively replacing lead-laden faucets and fountains and installing filters certified to remove lead. Yet the proposed rule only requires limited and infrequent testing at schools that is unlikely to consistently detect contamination.

“In short, EPA’s proposed update of the lead and copper rule lacks the robust measures needed to get the lead out. Yet the process is not over.  We hope that EPA will listen carefully to public comments and seize this once in a generation opportunity to strengthen its rule and secure safe drinking water for all Americans.”