Press Release

Ten State AGs Say EPA’s Proposed Drinking Water Standards are Insufficient to Protect Against Lead

Trump administration proposal rolls back requirements for lead service line replacements, allowing old lead pipes to remain in service for decades to come.

Wash­ing­ton, D.C. — A coali­tion of 10 state attor­neys gen­er­al led by Cal­i­for­nia Attor­ney Gen­er­al Xavier Becer­ra sub­mit­ted com­ments to the Envi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency (EPA) on the out­dat­ed and inad­e­quate Lead and Cop­per Rule (LCR), a set of reg­u­la­tions required by the Safe Drink­ing Water Act (SDWA) to pro­tect Amer­i­cans from the per­ni­cious health impacts asso­ci­at­ed with drink­ing water con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed with lead. In their com­ments, the AGs say that while the pro­posed rule includes sig­nif­i­cant improve­ments over cur­rent reg­u­la­tions, oth­er aspects fail to ade­quate­ly pro­tect pub­lic health, poten­tial­ly in vio­la­tion of the SDWA. In par­tic­u­lar, the pro­posed roll­back of the lead ser­vice line replace­ment rate — from 7% to 3% annu­al­ly — may vio­late an anti-back­slid­ing” pro­vi­sion in the SDWA which man­dates that revi­sions of a nation­al pri­ma­ry drink­ing water reg­u­la­tion… shall main­tain, or pro­vide for greater, pro­tec­tion of the health of per­sons.”

The Envi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency should make every sen­si­ble attempt to tack­le the dan­gers of lead in drink­ing water. Try­ing some isn’t enough. That’s why this EPA pro­pos­al fails the test Amer­i­cans expect,” said Cal­i­for­nia Attor­ney Gen­er­al Xavier Becer­ra. There is no room for back­slid­ing on the stan­dards pro­tect­ing our fam­i­lies from the well-doc­u­ment­ed dan­gers of lead. We don’t have decades to wait before we fix this prob­lem — we owe it to our chil­dren now to employ strin­gent stan­dards when it comes to keep­ing lead out of our drink­ing water.”

Ensur­ing that all of our com­mu­ni­ties are safe from lead expo­sure is a top pri­or­i­ty for the Mur­phy Admin­is­tra­tion, and that’s why I am call­ing on the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment to do every­thing in its pow­er to strength­en the nation­al drink­ing water rules for lead,” said New Jer­sey Attor­ney Gen­er­al Gur­bir Gre­w­al. Because com­mu­ni­ties across this coun­try are fac­ing the health con­se­quences of lead expo­sure, and because those con­se­quences have sig­nif­i­cant envi­ron­men­tal jus­tice impli­ca­tions, this is a time for bold action. I am proud to join col­leagues across the coun­try in push­ing for more from EPA.”

The AGs’ com­ments out­line three key sug­gest­ed mod­i­fi­ca­tions to the pro­posed LCR:

  1. Eval­u­ate whether a low­er action lev­el” is fea­si­ble. The pro­posed LCR main­tains the exist­ing action lev­el — the thresh­old that, when reached, requires water sys­tems to address lead in drink­ing water. The AGs say that new infor­ma­tion on the health impacts of lead in drink­ing water and the reduced cost of remov­ing lead ser­vice lines may call for a low­er action level.
  2. Improve stan­dards cov­er­ing lead ser­vice line replace­ment:
    • Elim­i­nate the roll­back of the manda­to­ry lead pipe replace­ment rate. The cur­rent LCR requires water sys­tems that exceed the lead action lev­el to replace lead ser­vice lines (LSL) at a rate of 7% annu­al­ly. The pro­posed LCR reduces the required replace­ment lev­el to 3%.
    • Eval­u­ate envi­ron­men­tal jus­tice con­cerns relat­ed to lead pipe replace­ment. The pro­posed LCR dis­pro­por­tion­ate­ly harms low-income home­own­ers who may not be able to afford to replace their LSLs. Under the exist­ing and pro­posed LCR, water sys­tems are only respon­si­ble for fund­ing LSL replace­ment on pub­lic property.
  3. Improve infor­ma­tion shar­ing. The AGs urged the EPA to man­date that all water sys­tems serv­ing more than 500 cus­tomers post inven­to­ries of lead ser­vice lines online. The pro­posed LCR will only require 1% of the nation’s pub­lic water sys­tems, serv­ing less than half of the nation’s pop­u­la­tion, to post LSL inven­to­ries online. The AGs also called for addi­tion­al pub­lic edu­ca­tion require­ments to raise aware­ness of the sources and risks of lead exposure. 

Lead is a high­ly tox­ic heavy met­al that can harm almost every organ and bod­i­ly sys­tem and is unsafe at any lev­el. Chil­dren exposed to lead face espe­cial­ly dire health risks, includ­ing seri­ous neu­ro­log­i­cal and devel­op­men­tal prob­lems. In their com­ments, the AGs cite a mul­ti-year study that found that approx­i­mate­ly 400,000 Amer­i­cans die every year from expo­sure to low lev­els of lead.

The attor­neys gen­er­al of Con­necti­cut, Illi­nois, Mary­land, Min­neso­ta, New Jer­sey, New York, Ore­gon, Penn­syl­va­nia and Wis­con­sin joined Cal­i­for­nia in sub­mit­ting the comments.

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About the State Ener­gy & Envi­ron­men­tal Impact Cen­ter
The State Ener­gy & Envi­ron­men­tal Impact Cen­ter (State Impact Cen­ter) is a non-par­ti­san Cen­ter at the NYU School of Law that is ded­i­cat­ed to help­ing state attor­neys gen­er­al fight against reg­u­la­to­ry roll­backs and advo­cate for clean ener­gy, cli­mate change, and envi­ron­men­tal val­ues and pro­tec­tions. It was launched in August 2017 with sup­port from Bloomberg Phil­an­thropies.
For more infor­ma­tion, vis­it our web­site.