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Earlier this year, the EPA under Andrew Wheeler announced plans to address widespread lead corruption in U.S. public water supplies.
In October, the agency released proposed revisions to the Safe Drinking Water Act’s “Lead and Copper Rule.” These modifications aim to decrease the pervasiveness of the toxin through a series of regulations — including limits on allowed levels of lead in water.
Environmentalist groups—including Clean Water Action—are calling for further action. Mainly, they urge for a full replacement of lead services lines throughout the country.
If these lines are left intact, they pose a serious concern to Latinos and Americans across the country who face dangerous lead exposure through their drinking water.
“Everything else is small potatoes,” Erik Olson of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) told the Washington Post. “From a public health standpoint,that’s absolutely critical. There are going to be problems with lead contamination as long as you leave lead pipes in the ground.”
The EPA is seeking your comments on this proposed rule by February 12.
Dear EPA Administrator Wheeler,
Lead exposure is a serious issue for Latinos and all Americans. The health effects are severe, and doctors across the country make one thing clear — lead exposure at any level is extremely unsafe.
While the EPA’s proposed Lead and Copper Rule is a step in the right direction, it does not go far enough. If this legislation is enacted without specifically addressing overlooked areas, too many could experience harmful consequences.
Specifically, I cite the following requests from Clean Water Action, which include:
- Require all water systems to fully replace all lead service lines within a specified timeline.
- Prohibit partial lead service line replacements, which put people’s health at risk and are inefficient.
- Water systems with elevated lead levels should fully replace lead service lines at a rate of at least 7% each year.
The EPA must put the safety of the citizens it serves ahead of other concerns. If we are to progress forward in lead legislation, let us finish the whole job and not put it off for another time. I urge you to keep our drinking water safe from harmful lead poisoning.
Why Should I be Concerned?
Since taking office, the Trump administration has proposed a series of rollbacks on various environmental regulations — safe water protections included.
Officials, including EPA Chief Andrew Wheeler, have said these legislative reductions stem from their view that there is too much governmental oversight in environmental issues.
However, the new proposed rule would implement regulations of its own.
“The Trump Administration is delivering on its commitment to ensure all Americans have access to clean drinking water by proposing the first major overhaul of the Lead and Copper Rule in over two decades,” Wheeler said in the rule announcement. “By improving protocols for identifying lead, expanding sampling, and strengthening treatment requirements, our proposal would ensure that more water systems proactively take actions to prevent lead exposure, especially in schools, childcare facilities, and the most at-risk communities.”
There is still a lot of policy work needed before this rule is approved, much less implemented, according to NRDC’s Olson.
“The rule needs to be overhauled to protect the enormous U.S. population served by the at least six million lead service lines that remain in the ground,” he said in a statement. “It also must protect the many millions more whose water contains lead leaching from the solder in their internal household plumbing or from lead-containing brass fixtures like faucets, which until recently could legally contain high levels of lead.”
Why is This Rule Lacking?
The critical problem? Lead pipes will still be present throughout the U.S.
Lead exposure, especially in children, can lead to:
- Nervous system damage
- Learning disabilities
- Shorter stature
- behavioral effects
- Impaired hearing
- Impaired formation and function of blood cells
Schools are grappling with the problem of lead contamination in the water supply, too.
Now the EPA’s new measure might lack the “robust measures needed to get the lead out,” said John Rumpler, clean water program director for Environment America.
“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.”