Why the Election May Slow Plans to Replace Lead Pipes

by | Jul 10, 2024 | Health

With the Environmental Protection Agency’s latest — and strictest — plan to minimize the risk of Americans drinking lead-contaminated water on the horizon, the debate over whether the rules go too far or not nearly far enough is reaching a tipping point.

Although lead was banned from new water service lines in 1986, it’s estimated that more than 9 million such lines still carry drinking water to homes and businesses throughout the country. Under the EPA’s Lead and Copper Rule Improvements proposal, water utilities would be required to replace all lead-containing lines within 10 years.

The proposal from the Biden administration builds on different rules put out in the waning days of the Trump term that allowed up to 30 years for service line replacement, triggered only when lead levels test higher than 15 parts per billion. The new proposal, which would largely supplant the Trump rules, calls for stricter monitoring, enhanced public education, and the 10-year pipe replacement mandate regardless of lead levels.

An October deadline looms for the new rules to be adopted; otherwise, enforcement of the less-stringent Trump administration rules will begin. And complicating matters more: November’s election results could shake up whose rules the nation must follow.

While many cities and states have begun to replace their lead pipes, some utilities and officials say the 10-year time frame is unfeasible and too expensive. They say it would be difficult for water utilities to follow the rules while dealing with new EPA limits on five PFAS contaminants, known as “forever chemicals,” and failing pipes, among other issues.

“Nobody will tell you that having lead in contact with water is a great idea,” said Steve Via, director of federal relations for the American Water Works Association, the country’s largest nonprofit water utility industry group. “The question be …

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With the Environmental Protection Agency’s latest — and strictest — plan to minimize the risk of Americans drinking lead-contaminated water on the horizon, the debate over whether the rules go too far or not nearly far enough is reaching a tipping point.

Although lead was banned from new water service lines in 1986, it’s estimated that more than 9 million such lines still carry drinking water to homes and businesses throughout the country. Under the EPA’s Lead and Copper Rule Improvements proposal, water utilities would be required to replace all lead-containing lines within 10 years.

The proposal from the Biden administration builds on different rules put out in the waning days of the Trump term that allowed up to 30 years for service line replacement, triggered only when lead levels test higher than 15 parts per billion. The new proposal, which would largely supplant the Trump rules, calls for stricter monitoring, enhanced public education, and the 10-year pipe replacement mandate regardless of lead levels.

An October deadline looms for the new rules to be adopted; otherwise, enforcement of the less-stringent Trump administration rules will begin. And complicating matters more: November’s election results could shake up whose rules the nation must follow.

While many cities and states have begun to replace their lead pipes, some utilities and officials say the 10-year time frame is unfeasible and too expensive. They say it would be difficult for water utilities to follow the rules while dealing with new EPA limits on five PFAS contaminants, known as “forever chemicals,” and failing pipes, among other issues.

“Nobody will tell you that having lead in contact with water is a great idea,” said Steve Via, director of federal relations for the American Water Works Association, the country’s largest nonprofit water utility industry group. “The question be …nnDiscussion:nn” ai_name=”RocketNews AI: ” start_sentence=”Can I tell you more about this article?” text_input_placeholder=”Type ‘Yes'”]

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