The Flint Effect: EPA wants lead water lines replaced in 10 years

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December 8, 2023 — In a press release issued Monday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reported that on November 30, 2023, the agency announced a proposal to strengthen its Lead and Copper Rule that would require water systems across the country to replace lead service lines within 10 yearsOpens in a new tab.. In this proposal, EPA also announced additional improvements to protect public health, such as lowering the lead action level and improving sampling protocols utilized by water systems.

The Flint Effect:  Ten years out, lead still in.

Dubbing the proposal to remove lead service lines “the Flint EffectOpens in a new tab.,” National Public Radio questioned Melissa Mays of Flint, Michigan, who founded the advocacy group Water You Fighting For, about how realistic the proposal to replace lead pipes within ten years is, particularly given the fact that despite years of legal action, Flint still hasn’t finished replacing all its lead pipes.  “Well, for the past several years, myself and our attorneys and all of the residents impacted – we’ve all been in court to make sure this gets done right,” Mays saidOpens in a new tab..  “My hope is that all of the things that have happened to us and all the loopholes that the politicians and the agencies and, you know, everybody has found to slow this process down will be ironed out so no other city has to go through this. And they focus on the importance on getting the lead out because it’s been almost 10 years in Flint.”

Potential Dangers of Lead in Drinking Water.

According to the EPAOpens in a new tab., “EPA has set the maximum contaminant level goal for lead in drinking water at zero because lead is a toxic metal that can be harmful to human health even at low exposure levels. Lead is persistent, and it can bioaccumulate in the body over time.  Young children, infants, and fetuses are particularly vulnerable to lead because the physical and behavioral effects of lead occur at lower exposure levels in children than in adults. A dose of lead that would have little effect on an adult can have a significant effect on a child. In children, low levels of exposure have been linked to damage to the central and peripheral nervous system, learning disabilities, shorter stature, impaired hearing, and impaired formation and function of blood cells.”

The National Resources Defense Council (NRDC)Opens in a new tab. notes in its summary of what happened in Michigan, after Flint’s water supply was switched from Detroit to the Flint River, “Inadequate treatment and testing of the water resulted in a series of major water quality and health issues for Flint residents—issues that were chronically ignored, overlooked, and discounted by government officials even as complaints mounted that the foul-smelling, discolored, and off-tasting water piped into Flint homes for 18 months was causing skin rashes, hair loss, and itchy skin.”  As to lead, NRDC writes, “Pure lead pipes, solder, and fittings were banned from U.S. water systems in 1986 (it was only in 2014 that allowable lead levels in plumbing and fixtures dropped to 0.25 percent), and national regulations for lead testing and treatment of public water supplies were established in 1991 with the Lead and Copper Rule. While action by the water utility is required once the level of lead in public water supplies reaches 15 ppb (as measured at the 90th percentile of samples collected), the EPA acknowledges that ‘there is no safe level of exposure to lead.’ Independent tests conducted in fall 2015 revealed that nearly 17 percent of samples from hundreds of Flint homes measured above the 15 ppb federal lead action level, with several samples registering above 100 ppb.”

“Lead can affect children’s brain development, resulting in reduced intelligence quotient (IQ), behavioural changes such as reduced attention span and increased antisocial behaviour, and reduced educational attainment,” the World Health Organization writesOpens in a new tab.. “Lead exposure also causes anaemia, hypertension, renal impairment, immunotoxicity and toxicity to the reproductive organs. The neurological and behavioural effects of lead are believed to be irreversible.”

Praise for EPA’s Proposal.

The proposed action significantly advances President Biden’s commitment to remove every lead service line in America to protect children and vulnerable populations from the negative impacts of lead in drinking water, particularly those living in disadvantaged communities, the EPA writesOpens in a new tab., citing the following remarks:

Senators Tammy Duckworth (IL) and Cory Booker (NJ): “We applaud the Biden Administration for continuing to prioritize the health of our families by working to strengthen the Lead and Copper Rule. Setting this ambitious goal to remove the vast majority of our nation’s lead pipes within 10 years is a bold action that will help save our children’s future. With no safe level of lead for a child to ingest, we must take action to ensure lead regulations are as strong as possible. All too often lead poisoning disproportionately affects underserved, underfunded communities, and communities of color. With this improved rule—along with historic investments from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law—we can make a lead-free future a reality for all, no matter the color or their skin or their zip code.”

Senator Chuck Schumer (NY): “I’ve long fought for this. And thanks to the Infrastructure Law and the American Rescue Plan we passed: Lead pipes are going to be removed in cities throughout the country!”

Senator Ed Markey (MA): “I am hopeful that [EPA’s] lead rule will finally get lead out of our water supply for good and make sure that everyone—no matter where they live—gets clean drinking water and justice.”

Senator Dick Durbin (IL): “[EPA and the White House] strengthen Lead and Copper Rule, proposing the unprecedented requirement to replace lead pipes regardless of the amount of lead detected in drinking water. This will secure the health of our communities & make a lead-free future a reality for youth across America.”

Senator Debbie Stabenow (MI): “Michigan knows all too well the dangers of lead pipes. This proposal from [EPA] builds on our work to replace lead water pipes across the country and helps ensure that families have safe drinking water.”

Senator Gary Peters (MI): “Michiganders deserve access to safe, clean drinking water. That’s why I fought to secure funding in the bipartisan infrastructure law that will help make this long overdue, transformative effort possible.”

Senator Chris Van Hollen (MD): “A future where there’s NEVER lead in drinking water is within reach — and [President Biden] is charging full speed ahead toward that goal. This historic proposal would protect millions of Americans from the dangers of lead poisoning, especially infants & children who are most vulnerable.”

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (RI): “I’ve fought long and hard to protect kids from the lead hazards lurking in RI homes and pipes. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law combined with this plan from [EPA] will be a huge step forward.”

Senator Peter Welch (VT): “The Biden Admin is taking action to remove nearly all lead water pipes in the country. This is the strongest lead rule in history and is a massive investment in our environment and public health, made possible in part by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.”

Representative Katherine Clark (MA-5): “Everyone should have access to safe, clean drinking water. Grateful to the Biden Administration for this new proposal that builds on the progress of the Infrastructure Law.”

Representative Steny Hoyer (MD-5): “American families in every zip code deserve to live safely in their communities without the fear or harmful effects of lead exposure. [President Biden’s] Investing in America agenda is taking new actions to secure safe drinking water and protect communities from lead exposure.”

Representative Frank Pallone (NJ-6): “Today the Biden [EPA] announced a new proposal to replace 100% of lead water lines throughout the country. This is a game-changer for the countless communities that have had to struggle too hard, and too long, with basic access to safe drinking water.”

Representative Paul Tonko (NY-20): “There is no safe level of lead exposure. Despite this, over 9 million lead service lines deliver drinking water to American families. Today [EPA] is bringing us 1 step closer to 100% replacement of lead pipes & ensuring all families have #SafeDrinkingWater.”

Representative Pramila Jayapal (WA-7): “The Progressive Caucus is thrilled to applaud the new proposed rule from the Biden Administration to get the lead out and ensure clean drinking water for families across the country. This new rule will put the United States on track to locate and replace all lead pipes in the next decade, an endeavor that is critical for public health and will create thousands of good-paying, union jobs. It includes strengthened protections for communities that have been particularly impacted by pollution and climate change — often low-income neighborhoods and communities of color whose health and safety have been neglected — in an essential move for environmental justice.”

Representative Debbie Dingell (MI-6): “We know that no amount of lead in drinking water is safe. I applaud [EPA’s] proposed improvements to the Lead & Copper Rule to replace 100% of lead service lines within 10 years, and will continue to work in Congress and with the Administration to see this through.”

Representative Raul M. Grijalva (AZ-3): “The newly proposed Lead and Copper Rule Improvements from the [EPA] are an opportunity to advance protections for children and adults from the significant and irreversible health effects of lead in drinking water. We look forward to reviewing this critical proposal.”

Representative Nanette D. Barragán (CA-44): “Great news! Today, EPA proposed improvements to the Lead and Copper Rule that strengthen requirements to reduce lead in drinking water. The science is clear – there is no safe level of lead exposure. Thank you [President Biden] & [EPA] for your work to #GetTheLeadOut across America.”

Representative Ted Lieu (CA-36): “The science is clear – there is no safe level of lead exposure. Congress provided $15B to replace lead water pipes through the historic infrastructure law. Pleased the [EPA] has proposed additional actions to #GetTheLeadOut by replacing all lead pipes within 10 years.”

Representative Veronica Escobar (TX-16): “Everyone should be able to turn on the tap and have #SafeDrinkingWater. I’m pleased with the [EPA] for bringing America one step closer to that goal by proposing improvements to the Lead and Copper Rule that will help reduce lead in drinking water.”

Representative Nikema Williams (GA-5): “This is something I’ve fought for since I was in the Georgia State Senate! 8,600 homes in Georgia get water through lead pipes. EVERY ZIP CODE deserves the right to clean, #SafeDrinkingWater.”

Representative Mike Levin (CA-49): “All Americans deserve access to #SafeDrinkingWater without lead. Last year, I wrote to [EPA] asking the agency to act, and today, I’m grateful to see its proposal to replace 100% of lead pipe service lines within 10 years.”

Representative Juan Vargas (CA-52): “Today, [EPA] proposed improvements to the Lead and Copper Rule to help communities achieve 100% replacement of lead service lines within 10 years. These Lead & Copper Rule Improvements are a part of the Biden-Harris Administration’s Lead Pipe & Paint Action Plan.

Representative Gwen Moore (WI-4): “We all must continue to work to end the threat posed by lead to our children and communities. While much more needs to be done, I am pleased that the EPA has proposed a rule that will help support local communities’ efforts to remove this toxin, and I stand ready to ensure the city of Milwaukee has the tools and resources available to support this important goal.”

Representative Yvette D. Clarke (NY-9): “When it comes to the health and wellbeing of our children, there is no safe level for lead in our infrastructure. That’s why I’m extraordinarily grateful for [President Biden’s] unprecedented and historic commitment to protect every American community from the dangers of lead poisoning.”

Representative Donald Norcross (NJ-1): “Access to safe & clean drinking is a fundamental right. I applaud [President Biden] for taking this historic step and I’m proud that the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law is continuing to deliver for South Jersey with $131.4M in federal funding to replace lead service lines across our state.”

Representative Sydney Kamlager-Dove (CA-37): “More than 9 million lead service lines deliver water to families across the US. Today, [EPA] proposed improvements to the Lead and Copper Rule to help communities achieve 100% replacement of lead service lines within 10 years. Everyone deserves #SafeDrinkingWater.”

Representative Robin Kelly (IL-2): “More than 9 million lead service lines deliver water to families across the US. Today, EPA proposed improvements to the Lead and Copper Rule to help communities achieve 100% replacement of lead service lines within 10 years. #SafeDrinkingWater.”

Representative Sharice Davids (KS-3): “All Kansans should be able to turn on the faucet and drink clean water, yet lead pipes have caused contamination for too long. This is a big step in keeping folks safe at school, work, & home! The bipartisan infrastructure law continues to benefit Kansas.”

Representative Emanuel Cleaver (MO-5): “No family should have to worry about lead in their drinking water—but Missouri currently ranks 14th in the nation for the number of lead service lines still in use. Thankful [President Biden] is taking action to remove lead pipes & ensure every family has access to clean drinking water!”

Representative John Sarbanes (MD-3): Access to #SafeDrinkingWater is a human right. Pleased to see [EPA’s] proposed Lead and Copper Rule improvements that would empower communities to replace 100% of lead pipes within ten years.

Representative Mike Quigley (IL-5): “The science is clear – there is no safe level of lead exposure. Today, EPA proposed improvements to the Lead and Copper Rule that strengthen requirements to reduce lead in drinking water. #GetTheLeadOut”

Representative Marcy Kaptur (OH-9): “Everyone should be able to access #SafeDrinkingWater. Today we are one step closer to that goal with proposed improvements to the Lead and Copper Rule to reduce lead in drinking water. I will continue to work with [EPA] to champion efforts to improve our drinking water quality.”

Representative Sean Casten (IL-6): “Great news! I’ve previously called for lead remediation to protect health and ensure safe drinking for folks across the country.”

Representative Betty McCollum (MN-4): “Everyone should be able to turn on the tap & have access to safe drinking water. EPA’s new proposal will strengthen the Lead and Copper Rule, aiming to replace 100% of lead service lines by 2033, removing lead from millions of families’ drinking water.”

Representative Bobby Scott (VA-3): “Last year, [Administrator Michael Regan] came to Hampton Roads to highlight the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the Biden Administration’s efforts to remove lead from our pipes. Glad to see the [EPA]’s continued action on this important work.”

Representative Ritchie Torres (NY-15): “More than 9 million lead service lines deliver water to families across the US. The EPA proposed improvements to the Lead and Copper Rule to help communities achieve 100% replacement of lead service lines within 10 years. #SafeDrinkingWater.”

Representative Jennifer McClellan (VA-4): “The [EPA] is working to strengthen [President Biden’s] Lead Pipe & Paint Action Plan. I commend the agency on its effort to replace 100% of America’s lead pipes within 10 years! It’s time to #GetTheLeadOut & make sure all communities have access to #SafeDrinkingWater”

Representative Rob Menendez (NJ-8): The [EPA’s] leadership on requiring lead pipe replacements will make all of our communities healthier. In the 8th, cities like [Newark], under the leadership of [Mayor Ras Baraka], have made great progress on lead pipe replacement. Now, we will work to finish the job.

Representative Katie Porter (CA-47): “A quarter of California’s child care centers have dangerously high levels of lead in drinking water. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law invested billions to replace lead pipes, and I’m glad the EPA is putting a clock on elected officials to keep our communities safe.”

Representative Jan Schakowsky (IL-9): “You shouldn’t have to worry about whether the water you are drinking is clean. I’m grateful the EPA proposed a rule to help communities achieve 100% replacement of lead service lines. Chicago has more of these lines than any other city in the US. This rule will save lives.”

Representative Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick (FL-20): “Everyone should be able to turn on the tap and have #SafeDrinkingWater. Yesterday, the [EPA] brought America one step closer to that goal by proposing improvements to the Lead and Copper Rule that will help reduce lead in drinking water.”

Representative Haley Stevens (MI-11): “Thank you [POTUS] for prioritizing clean water. Replacing lead service lines will ensure a healthier and safer future for children and families. Michiganders, especially those with small kids, will finally be able to breathe easy, free from the anxiety of lead exposure.”

Representative Joe Courtney (CT-2): “Eastern CT is leading the way. Just a few weeks ago, I joined city officials to break ground on construction in New London to make the City’s water lines lead-free. This project was supposed to take 20 years. Thanks to the federal Infrastructure Law, it will only take 3.”

Representative Doris Matsui (CA-7): “The science is clear – there is no safe level of lead exposure. That’s why the [EPA] has a plan to replace lead service lines within 10 years. Every community deserves access to safe drinking water.”

Representative Bill Foster (IL-11): “This is great news! Everyone – no matter their zip code – deserves access to safe and clean drinking water.”

Representative André Carson (IN-7): “Late last week, [EPA] announced plans to finally remove all dangerous lead from our drinking water systems. The [Progressive Caucus] advocated for this long-overdue goal in our 2023 executive agenda – and it’s finally becoming a reality.”

House Energy and Commerce Committee Minority: “Democratic Committee Leaders [Frank Pallone] and [Paul Tonko] applaud the Biden [EPA]’s new proposal that would replace 100 percent of lead water lines across the country.”

Congressional Progressive Caucus: “The EPA’s new proposal would put the U.S. on track to replace all lead pipes in the next decade. This is critical for public health and environmental justice, made possible by activists and progressives in Congress who’ve fought tirelessly for clean water as a human right.”

House Sustainable Energy & Environment Coalition: “We at [SEEC] believe everyone should be able to turn on the tap and have [safe drinking water]. Today, [EPA] brought America one step closer to that goal by helping communities achieve 100% replacement of lead service lines within 10 years.”

Consumer Advocate and Environmental Activist Erin Brockovich: “While it has taken many years to get here… today EPA proposed a new Lead and Copper Rule that will finally protect so many children from lead exposure in their drinking water. I am confident this team at EPA can get it done. EPA’s comprehensive approach to getting the lead out has the Regulatory Framework, Funding, Technical Assistance, and Practical Implementation Tools.”

Flint, Michigan pediatrician and Associate Dean at Michigan State University College of Human Medicine Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha: “A game changer for kids and communities, EPA’s proposed new lead and copper rule would help ensure that we will never again see the preventable tragedy of a city, or a child, poisoned by their pipes. I am thrilled that this rule centers our children and their potential—and listens to parents and pediatricians who have been advocating for this for decades.”

American Public Health Association (APHA) Executive Director Georges C. Benjamin, MD: “No amount of lead in our water is without harmful effects. We know that even low levels of exposure affect IQ and academic achievement of children, which is why we fully support the EPA’s proposed Lead and Copper rule to replace all lead pipes in 10 years. Communities of color are disproportionately burdened by lead exposure and this ruling will work toward the goal of ensuring equitable access to lead-free water across the nation. Let’s ensure this rule is implemented and enforced so that everyone enjoys the health benefits of safe, lead-free water.”

Children’s Environmental Health Network Executive Director Nsedu Obot Witherspoon: “Important and needed progress is seen in this revised rule. An inventory of pipes updated every year and related replacement plans, a reduction of action level to 10 ppb by 2027 with required action when levels are exceeded, and requirement of 100% pipe replacements within 10 years. This is a step in the right direction and for the health and safety of children and other vulnerable populations.”

Environment America Clean Water Director John Rumpler: “The EPA’s proposed policy finally tackles the root of the problem — lead pipes that are inherently unsafe and unsuitable for drinking water. The agency’s 10-year deadline turns President Biden’s ambitious public health goal into an enforceable reality. These toxic pipes are the single largest source of lead-water contamination for millions of Americans. In mandating their rapid removal, EPA is moving to get the lead out — as common sense and safe drinking water demand.

The National Center for Healthy Housing Executive Director Amanda L. Reddy: “Lead poisoning is a problem we can solve, and we applaud the administration’s historic commitment to rapid and full replacement of lead service lines. We need comprehensive solutions, implemented at scale, to prevent new generations of American children from being unnecessarily and unjustly exposed to and harmed by lead’s toxic effects and getting lead out of our drinking water is a critical step towards that goal.”

Green & Healthy Homes Initiative President and CEO Ruth Ann Norton: “The announcement today by the EPA to require full lead service line replacement over the next ten years is a critical step in ending the toxic legacy of lead poisoning in the US. By also lowering the action level for lead in water from 15 parts per billion to 10 parts per billion and improving testing and sampling requirements and proactively addressing barriers to implementation, the EPA has made abundantly clear its goal to protect our children, pregnant women, and families from dangerous lead exposure. Coupled with EPA and Administration efforts to eradicate lead in paint, soil, air, and other sources as part of its Environmental Justice and Justice 40 Initiatives, the announcement today advances work to address the social determinants of health, equity, and opportunity for all communities. We commend the work of Assistant Administrator Radhika Fox and her team for thoughtfully moving forward standards and resources to advance lead poisoning prevention and create better opportunities for all.”

Environmental Working Group Senior Vice President for Government Affairs Scott Faber: “Once again, President Biden’s EPA is putting our families first and honoring his commitments to the American people. In particular, the president is making good on his commitment, made while he was running for president, to address the threats posed by lead service lines.”

Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) Senior Strategic Director for Health Erik D. Olson: “In a moment when many of us feel overwhelmed by bad news, the EPA’s lead rule provides a ray of hope that we are approaching the day when every family can trust that the water from their kitchen tap is safe, regardless of how much money they have or their zip code. The EPA is doing what Congress charged it to do decades ago: getting the lead out of drinking water. Communities demanding safe water got the attention of President Biden, whose administration will finally remove every lead pipe from the ground.”

Environmental Defense Fund Senior Vice President for Healthy Communities Sarah Vogel: Almost a year ago, EDF and partners joined the inaugural Get the Lead Out Partnership to meet the Biden administration’s goal to eliminate every lead water pipe in the U.S. Today’s proposed rule from EPA is a huge step forward in fulfilling that promise. Fixing this longstanding environmental injustice remains an urgent priority. Children and adults—especially those in overburdened communities—will reap enormous public health benefits. This proposal charts a path forward to addressing all sources of lead including air, food, paint and soil. EDF applauds this proposal and looks forward to supporting EPA to finalize this historic rule by October 2024.”

Sierra Club Senior Toxics Policy Advisor Sonya Lunder: “Addressing lead contamination in our drinking water is fundamental to ensuring the well-being of our communities and safeguarding our natural resources. This proposed rule, particularly the mandate for lead service line replacements and the improved requirements to educate the public, represents progress towards a safer, more sustainable future for all.”

Environmental Protection Network Volunteer Dr. Betsy Southerland: “If EPA finalizes the proposed requirements, the main source of lead in drinking water will finally be eliminated. Getting the lead out of drinking water will be a big victory for public health as lead is a highly toxic pollutant that affects the IQ and behavior of children and increases the risk of heart attacks and stroke in adults. Lead pipe replacement will also be an economic boon for communities, generating thousands of new jobs.”

Earthjustice Attorney Suzanne Novak: “The EPA’s proposed improvements to the Lead and Copper Rule are a much-needed response to a dire public health crisis that’s been ongoing for more than a century. The administration’s proposal takes important steps towards fulfilling the Safe Drinking Water Act’s purpose of protecting human health to the extent feasible. EPA has recognized that quick removal of all lead service lines is imperative, and that swift action is needed when a community has persistent high levels of lead in its water. Because the public health burden of lead exposure falls disproportionately on environmental justice communities, we need to make sure that the final rule is equitable in how it achieves reduction of lead in drinking water across the country.”

National Wildlife Foundation Vice President for Environmental justice, Climate, and Community Revitalization Adrienne Hollis: “Lead is an inviable, insidious, and all-too-common poison lurking in the tap water of millions of Americans. This proposed rule from the EPA will help communities replace lead pipes and prevent future tragedies like what we have seen in placed like Flint and Benton Harbor. Clean water is a human right, and this EPA rule will help advance that common-sense and essential idea further to becoming reality.”

League of Conservation Voters Deputy Legislative Director Madeleine Foote: “The EPA’s proposed improvements to the Lead and Copper Rule are a critical step forward for families across the country who worry if the water coming from their taps is safe. There is no safe level of lead, and for too long, too many communities, especially low-income communities and communities of color, have suffered the devastating public health and economic impacts of this dangerous pollutant. This proposed rule will have profound benefits for our public health by proposing to require all lead service lines to be replaced within 10 years and improve sampling, inventories, and education and notification requirements. We commend the Biden-Harris administration for delivering on their whole-of-government commitment to protect our communities from lead pollution and urge them to finalize the strongest rule possible to ensure everyone, no matter their race, zip code, or income, has access to clean, safe water.”

Environmental Policy Innovation Center (EPIC) Chief Strategy Officer & Director of Water Maureen Cunningham: “It took decades or more to install millions of toxic lead pipes in neighborhoods and communities across the country, but with today’s proposed updates to the federal Lead and Copper Rule, we are one step closer to replacing them all in the coming decade. Today, the Biden-Harris Administration cemented its already-historic promises into a landmark rule, by proposing a 10-year mandate to replace the nation’s lead pipes and tightened requirements to achieve lead-free water. EPIC commends the Biden-Harris Administration and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for taking this monumental step, and is thrilled to partner in the nationwide effort prioritizing safe drinking water.”

Southern Environmental Law Center Senior Attorney and Leader of the Water Program Kelly Moser: “Exposure to lead in drinking water is well known to cause serious human health impacts. EPA’s proposal affirms the agency’s commitment to communities across the country that have long awaited federal action to replace the lead pipes responsible for harms to people’s health. EPA’s proposed improvements to the Lead and Copper Rule will help protect families and communities disproportionately impacted by the hazards of lead exposure through drinking water.”

Clean Water Action National Campaigns Director Lynn Thorp: “We have consistently urged EPA to take decisive action to put lead service lines behind us – both to eliminate this largest source of lead in drinking water where lead service lines are present and to avoid a disproportionate impact on certain people and communities. The Lead and Copper Rule Improvements proposal is an important contribution to fulfilling the commitments to reduce lead hazards and protect public health in the Biden-Harris Lead Pipe and Paint Action Plan.”

Union of Concerned Scientists Research Director in the Food and Environment Program Dr. Stacy Woods: “The toxic legacy of lead water lines has impacted people across the country for far too long, from Flint to Newark to New Orleans, Chicago, and beyond. This is a huge step in the right direction for public health and environmental justice, and it reflects years of hard work and advocacy by so many people.”

Environmental Law & Policy Center Executive Director Howard Learner: “The Environmental Law & Policy Center commends the US EPA’s proposed improvements to the federal Lead and Copper Rule, and the Biden administration’s actions to speed up lead service pipe replacements.  Lead in drinking water has long been known to cause brain damage in young children and cause additional long-term disabilities. Chicago, unfortunately, has more lead service pipes than any other city in the U.S., and Cleveland, Detroit, Milwaukee, St. Louis, Indianapolis, Minneapolis and Cincinnati comprise most of the remaining ‘top ten’ cities with harmful lead service pipes. Everyone should have safe, lead-free water in their homes.  We support the US EPA now stepping up with regulatory actions necessary to protect public health from lead in drinking water.”

Alliance for the Great Lakes COO Molly Flanagan: “There is no safe level of lead in drinking water. Since Great Lakes communities currently have hundreds of thousands of lead pipes, mandating total replacement in the next decade is a huge, welcome step forward to protecting human health. The Alliance supports the Biden Administration’s efforts on this issue. We also look forward to working with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on finalization and working with states, water utilities, and community advocates on robust and swift implementation of the rule.”

NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson: “From Mississippi to Maryland, Black America has been forced to bear the brunt of a water crisis they did not create. The NAACP applauds the Biden Administration for taking meaningful steps toward fulfilling their promise to make clean water a reality for all. Now, we look forward to working with Administrator Regan on community-centered education and implementation. This is what advocacy in action looks like.”

PolicyLink CEO Michael McAfee: “A thriving democracy uses the full extent of the law to ensure basic human rights, including access to clean water, are met now and for future generations. We applaud EPA Assistant Administrator Radhika Fox and the Office of Water for working to address disparities and protect families all across the country from ongoing lead exposure, ensuring that every person has access to clean, affordable water.”

WE ACT for Environmental Justice: “WE ACT for Environmental Justice commends the EPA’s efforts to prioritize the health and well-being of our communities by taking these crucial steps to protect our water supplies. We look forward to continuing to work collaboratively with the EPA and other stakeholders to ensure that all communities have access to clean and safe drinking water.”

Michigan Welfare Rights Organization Organizer and People’s Water Board Coalition Director Sylvia Orduño: “Detroit residents have long been concerned about the high number of old lead service lines in our community and concerns with safe drinking water for families. We have witnessed many household hardships among residents in Flint, Benton Harbor, and other Michigan cities as they consumed unsafe drinking water and were not adequately informed about health risks. The EPA’s Lead and Copper Rule Improvements are a big step forward in meeting the needs of vulnerable households to ensure that community water systems communicate better with residential customers and remove lead service lines in an expedited time frame.”

We the People of Detroit: “Lead contamination has plagued communities across the country putting everyone at risk, especially our children. While there is no safe level of lead, We the People of Detroit applauds the EPA for this next step in better protecting our communities from lead contamination. Lowering lead action levels, improving water sampling procedures, and accelerating full lead pipe removals will tackle a multi-generational crisis and reduce the cost of water, as families will not have to supplement drinking water by purchasing bottled water. We fully support this proposal to move this country towards a lead-free future.”

Black Millennials 4 Flint Founder CEO & President LaTricea D. Adams: “As a White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council Appointee and member of the Biden-Harris Get the Lead Out Partnership, one of my first recommendations to the administration was to replace lead service lines. It is an incredible day as the administration has put a due date on replacing the nearly 9-10 million lead service lines across the country.  While there is still much work to be done, we are moving in a positive direction, and I am looking forward to lead free drinking water in 10 years so that our children will have a better future. Thank you, President Biden and EPA Administrator Regan!”

Black Millennials 4 Flint National Director of Youth EJ Programs, Flint Native, Dionna Brown: “As a resident of Flint, Michigan during the devastating Flint Water Crisis and now, I am grateful for the strides we are making with the new Proposed Lead and Copper Rule Improvement. The alarming statistics from the crisis underscore the urgent need for change. Living through those difficult times, I witnessed firsthand the profound impact on our community. Environmental racism, pervasive in Black, Brown, and low-income communities, has a long and painful history in our country. The Proposed Lead and Copper Rule Improvement is a crucial step towards rectifying this injustice. No one should endure the hardships caused by contaminated water based on their skin color or socioeconomic status.”

United Parents Against Lead & Other Environmental Hazards Founder and Executive Director, Queen Zakia Shabazz: “As a longstanding advocate for communities harmed by lead, I commend the EPA’s proposed improvements to the Lead and Copper Rule. Despite the passage of the Safe Drinking Water Act, for years we’ve seen the devastating effects of lead exposure, particularly on our children. These improvements signify hope and progress in ensuring safe drinking water for all, especially those disproportionately affected by lead contamination. While our work continues, this proposed rule is a crucial milestone in safeguarding children’s health.”

US Water Alliance CEO Mami Hara: “The US Water Alliance commends the EPA for recognizing the urgency in the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to remove lead from our communities. This proposed rule is an important step toward achieving lead-free water infrastructure and supports a broader, collaborative approach to ensure safe drinking water for all Americans. The public health and economic benefits are clear and remind us of why these efforts are crucial to support an equitable One Water future for all.”

Rural Community Assistance Partnership (RCAP): “RCAP welcomes the announcement of EPA’s lead and copper rule improvements (LCRI) which will ensure the equitable replacement of lead service lines as well as regulations that are easier to understand. This rule is an important step to getting the lead out, and RCAP looks forward to continuing to partner with EPA and states to help small water systems, rural schools, and childcare centers overcome systemic lead-related challenges and come into compliance.”

National Rural Water Association CEO Matt Holmes: “NRWA applauds EPA’s effort to protect public health by removing lead from our nation’s drinking water. We provide technical assistance, training, and education to small, rural water systems everyday as we work to meet the LCRI ambitious goals. As an inaugural member of the Get the Lead Out Partnership, NRWA and our State Affiliates have been committed to this initiative from day one and look forward to reviewing the details of the LCRI and working with EPA to ensure our members are prepared to meet the challenges.”

American Water Works Association (AWWA): “AWWA strongly supports EPA’s goal of removing all lead service lines as quickly as feasible from our communities, on both public and private property. We are proud to lift up the examples of many members that have worked swiftly and effectively to address lead line replacement in their communities. We also agree that lead service line inventories should be continually updated so consumers understand where lead risks reside and can make informed decisions to protect their households.”

Virginia AWWA Chair Josh Gelman: “We applaud EPA for this bold proposal – as it is imperative the water sector tackle the generational issue of lead once and for all. VA AWWA commits to supporting its members in any way we can to make sure they have the information, resources and support they need to get the lead out of their communities.”

Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies (AMWA) CEO Tom Dobbins: “AMWA and its member drinking water systems are committed to providing clean and safe water to all Americans and share EPA’s goal of working toward the identification and replacement of all lead service lines across the country. We appreciate that EPA’s proposal considers some of AMWA’s concerns, including addressing a number of logistical challenges utilities may encounter when replacing lead lines on private property. We look forward to digging into the details of the proposal, providing comments and continuing to work with EPA toward an implementable final rule.”

Water Research Foundation CEO Peter Grevatt: “EPA has set forward an ambitious goal for the removal of all lead service lines within the next ten years, particularly given the shared ownership of lead lines between water systems and private landowners in many jurisdictions across the country. The Water Research Foundation has completed an extensive research portfolio related to lead service line removal that can support the completion of this goal, and there are a number of WRF subscribers and utility research partners that have already confirmed removal of all of their lead service lines.”

Water Environment Federation Interim Executive Director Pat Nichols: “The Water Environment Federation (WEF) recognizes the critical need to protect all Americans from potential exposure to lead through aging drinking water pipes. WEF supports the EPA’s commitment to provide much-needed federal funding and technical support for the new Lead and Copper Rule, particularly given the many regulatory and infrastructure challenges utilities are facing to provide their customers with safe and affordable water.”

National Association of Water Companies (NAWC) President and CEO Robert F. Powelson: “We support efforts to eliminate lead service lines from the nation’s water systems and applaud the Biden Administration for its continued leadership on this issue. Knowing the risks associated with lead service lines, NAWC member companies have been proactively removing tens of thousands of lead service lines from their water systems. Lead service line replacement is a national priority for NAWC member companies who have been working in collaboration with state public utility commissions to protect customers and address this issue. These efforts are part of the regulated, private water industry’s ongoing commitment to ensure our customers have access to drinking water that is safe, reliable and affordable. The EPA’s proposed improvements to the Lead and Copper Rule places all water providers on a level playing field and will go a long way toward increasing American’s confidence in the water coming from their taps.”

WateReuse Association Executive Director Patricia Sinicropi: “The WateReuse Association is committed to ensuring access to safe drinking water through the use of advanced, purified recycled water. Potable reuse has a proven track record of protecting public health and the environment while creating sustainable, dependable water supplies. WateReuse applauds EPA’s commitment to removing lead from drinking water distribution systems to ensure all Americans have access to safe and sustainable supplies of drinking water.”

Water Finance Assistance Director Glenn Barnes: “Water Finance Assistance strongly supports EPA’s goal to improve public health by removing lead service lines from the nation’s water infrastructure and stands ready to help meet the ambitious goal of removing all lead service lines in a decade. Every American should be able to turn on the tap and trust that the water coming out is safe. Unfortunately, high-profile lead incidents in Flint and Newark have eroded confidence in tap water nationwide, even in communities where the water is safe. Eliminating lead from our drinking water systems will help to restore trust in tap water.”

Water Quality Association: “The Water Quality Association (WQA) commends EPA and the Biden Administration’s whole-of-government approach to addressing lead. The LCRI, announced today, puts us on the path to dramatically reduce Americans’ exposure to this neurotoxin. WQA supports the requirement that certified point-of-use products be made available to customers of water systems that have multiple lead action level exceedances, so that they may immediately reduce lead exposure while waiting for lead service lines to be replaced. WQA also supports the proposed rule’s flexibility, which allows small systems to continue to use alternative compliance mechanisms, such as certified point-of-use and point-of-entry filtration devices. These devices are proven to be effective, affordable, and immediate at reducing lead in water.”

Environmental Council of the States (ECOS) Executive Director Ben Grumbles: “State environmental agencies appreciate and welcome EPA’s significant proposal to prevent lead in drinking water, protect public health, and upgrade water infrastructure for all, including the most vulnerable in our communities. ECOS members, as co-regulators with EPA, look forward to sharing their experiences with the agency to ensure a workable and effective rule is finalized next year, which is the 50th anniversary of the landmark federal Safe Drinking Water Act.”3

Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO) CEO Michael Fraser, PhD: “This action protects our country’s children, particularly those in disadvantaged communities, from the well-known negative health impacts of lead. By proposing to not only remove all lead service lines from our communities within the next 10 years, but also to identify where legacy lead pipes are located, our country is taking another step towards addressing the health disparities associated with lead exposure. Families should not have to worry that tap water may sicken their children. By removing lead hazards from pipes, improving drinking water sampling protocols, and lowering the lead action level, we will make major strides to improve our country’s drinking water.”

Association of State Drinking Water Administrators (ASDWA) Executive Director Alan Roberson: “ASDWA is looking forward to diving into the details of the proposed Lead and Copper Rule Improvements (LCRI) and developing comments from the perspective of EPA’s co-regulators. The combination of the proposed LCRI and the current Lead and Copper Rule Revisions (LCRR) will increase public health protection by reducing the exposure to lead in drinking water. States are looking forward to working closely with EPA on implementation of both rules.”

Connecticut Department of Public Health Commissioner Manisha Juthani, MD: “The Connecticut Department of Public Health supports the initiative to reduce lead exposure to protect the health and well-being of our communities. By actively addressing this issue and through the work of the EPA in sharing their draft Lead and Copper Improvement Rule, we can ensure a safer living environment for everyone, particularly our children who are most vulnerable to the harmful effects of lead. Implementing measures to identify and remediate lead sources, raising awareness about the risks of lead exposure, and promoting the use of lead-free alternatives are crucial steps towards creating a healthier future. Together, we can make a significant impact in safeguarding our communities from the dangers of lead and promoting a better quality of life for all.”

New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Shawn LaTourette: “This is how we better protect our kids and improve public health. Knowing there is no safe level of lead exposure, the Biden-Harris @EPA proposes national Safe Drinking Water reform requiring all lead pipes be replaced within ten years. #GetTheLeadOut”

Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative: “The 250 member cities in the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative commend the Biden Administration for their decisive action to expedite lead service line removal. It’s now more crucial than ever to support local elected leaders as they work to get the lead out of their drinking water and protect public health. The proposed improvements to the Lead and Copper Rule underscore how critically important it is for city leaders to bring down per-pipe replacement costs and strategically utilize every available dollar from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.”

Newark Department of Water and Sewer Utilities Director Kareem Adeem: “Here in Newark, New Jersey, our community persevered through a lead crisis and I’m proud of the work we did removing all 23,000 lead pipes in the city in under three years. EPA’s new proposed rule will prompt more communities across the country to reduce exposure to lead in drinking water. This action is commendable and represents a positive step forward toward safeguarding the health and well-being of current and future generations.”

Greater Cincinnati Water Works Director Cathy Bailey: “Greater Cincinnati Water Works supports reducing the risk of exposure of lead in all forms including drinking water. Lead is especially challenging for older communities and water systems that struggle with legacy infrastructure. Although addressing this challenge will be expensive, this proposed regulation is an opportunity for communities to increase investments in their water systems to ensure safe water. Personally, I’m excited about the equity this will deliver. This is a game changer, especially for disadvantaged communities that might not often see infrastructure improvements at the same rate as other segments of communities. Let’s get the lead out!”

Green Bay Water General Manager Nancy Quirk, P.E.: “We at Green Bay Water are proud to have collaborated effectively with the City of Green Bay and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources in the removal of lead service lines. This partnership has been pivotal in safeguarding our community’s access to high-quality, affordable drinking water. As water utilities, we are not merely service providers; we are stewards of public health. The proposed Lead and Copper Rule Improvements are a commendable step towards nationwide health and safety. Yet, to realize this vision in every community, it is crucial to consider the diverse challenges and resource requirements across different cities. We stand ready to share our experiences and insights to aid other cities in this vital mission. Together, we can achieve a future where every American has access to lead-free drinking water.”

WSSC Water General Manager and CEO Kishia L. Powell: “We applaud this bold and necessary step to ensure the Nation’s drinking water is safe. WSSC Water will do its part to support this public health initiative. We thank EPA for recognizing that while there is historic levels of funding available, there is much more funding needed to tackle our critical water infrastructure investment needs. Thank you for the Biden Administration’s leadership to resolve water challenges.”

Detroit Water & Sewerage Department Director Gary Brown: “The City of Detroit Water and Sewerage Department enthusiastically supports the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed revisions to its Lead and Copper Rule. We appreciate the unprecedented amount of access the Biden Administration and EPA Assistant Administrator Radhika Fox offered to water providers and municipalities to provide our input and feedback during the drafting process.[…] Detroit is especially grateful that President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law provides $50 billion to support upgrades to the nation’s drinking water and wastewater infrastructure.”4  

Newburgh Clean Water Project Steering Committee Member, Deborah Brown: “Communities like ours in Newburgh have grappled with the repercussions of lead contamination for too long. The proposed improvements, especially the replacement of all lead service lines, signify a significant stride to safe and clean drinking water for our families and future generations. It’s a step in the right direction.”

Laborers’ International Union of North America General President Brent Booker: “Today’s proposal to remove all lead pipes from our nation’s drinking water in the next 10 years will accelerate the work that has already begun and keep Americans safe from toxic lead exposure. LIUNA commends the Biden Administration and EPA Assistant Administrator for the Office of Water Radhika Fox for leadership in protecting our drinking water. LIUNA members are already working hard in many cities and municipalities across the nation to remove lead pipes and this new rule will help ensure this continues and expands. The Administration’s commitment to creating good jobs with federal investment will help ensure that jobs created by these projects will be good-paying, family-supporting jobs. LIUNA looks forward to working with the EPA and the Administration as the rule is finalized and implemented.”

Service Employees International Union General President Mary Kay Henry: “Since the Flint Water Crisis brought the issue to the forefront, working people have been demanding action on the use of lead pipes across the nation. This new rule will not only make our communities safer & healthier, but will create thousands of good, union jobs.”

North America’s Building Trades Unions: “NABTU is pleased to see [President Biden] and [EPA] continue to protect the health and safety of our communities across the country by removing lead from our water systems. This effort will not only create high quality, middle class sustaining union jobs, but it will allow our members to do their part in providing safe, clean water for all.”

American Society of Civil Engineers Executive Director Tom Smith: “ASCE strongly supports programs and funding for the removal of lead from water systems, including lead service line removal. We support EPA’s ambitious goal of 100 percent removal of lead service lines nationwide, and view this as an important step forward in improving the quality and safety of the nation’s drinking water. We look forward to fully reviewing the proposed rule and are eager to work with EPA towards issuing a final rule in the coming months.”

Blue-Green Alliance Executive Director Jason Walsh: “This proposed rule will help create good, union jobs, improve the health of entire communities, and address environmental injustice by prioritizing low-income communities and communities of color that have been disproportionately impacted by toxic legacy chemicals like lead. This is a positive step towards getting the lead out of drinking water. The final rule can go even further by including additional equity considerations—such as full replacement of lead service lines located on the private side of properties and addressing the proper disposal of replaced lead service lines, two major sources of lead exposure. We thank EPA for this important step in addressing the issue of lead pipes and urge swift action to finalize this rule and replace all these harmful pipes once and for all.”

American Water: “American Water supports the EPA’s efforts to reduce risks from lead and copper in drinking water through the proposed Lead and Copper Rule Improvements. Our water quality experts are reviewing the proposed revisions and will provide comments on the proposal after that review is complete. As we have been doing for many years, we look forward to continuing to work with the EPA and others in the drinking water industry through the rule development process.”

CDM Smith Senior Vice President for Lead and Copper Strategy Leader Sandy Kutzing: “We recognize the significance and importance of EPA’s updated Lead and Copper Rule, which focuses on the identification and replacement of all lead service lines across the country to protect public health. We are proud of the partnership we had to help Newark, NJ remove all of their lead service lines in under 3 years and are ready to support municipalities across the country efficiently meet these updated regulations.”

Jacobs Engineering Vice President and Global Director for Drinking Water and Reuse Solutions Russell Ford, PhD, PE, BCEE: “The Lead and Copper Rule Improvements advance the EPA’s commitment to eliminate lead exposure from drinking water and protect public health, especially among vulnerable and disadvantaged populations. Jacobs has already spent several decades supporting communities in the U.S. with Lead and Copper Rule-related compliance strategies, and we’ll continue to provide that programmatic support as our clients navigate the new LCRI requirements, including replacing all lead service lines within 10 years.”

Black & Veatch Director of Alternative Funding and Financing Francesca McCann: “The EPA’s proposal to strengthen its Lead and Copper Rule is an essential step toward safeguarding public health from the harmful effects of lead exposure, and we applaud this major milestone. Black & Veatch continues to be at the forefront of lead service line replacement, serving our clients and their communities from both a technical and funding standpoint. We are honored to be part of this major national vision to remove every lead service line in America and to play an important role in protecting all communities across the country – now and for generations to come.”

Ferguson: “The proposed strengthening of the Lead and Copper Rule is a positive step forward in ensuring present and future generations have quality drinking water that is lead-free and safe to drink. The Rule strengthening not only accelerates progress towards the goal of replacing every lead pipe in America, but also makes it more actionable by defining a timeframe. Ferguson is passionate about making a meaningful contribution to a sustainable future for water, and we stand ready to be an integrated partner with the water utilities who will be improving the water infrastructure of communities across the country.”

120Water CEO Megan Glover: “The Lead and Copper Rule Improvements (LCRI) is a monumental step forward in protecting public health and advancing the replacement of lead pipes in the United States. We at 120Water are committed to empowering the drinking water community to implement these improvements and get the lead out as soon as possible.”

BlueConduit: “We applaud the EPA for requiring water utilities to find and replace all lead service lines on this timeline. The proposed rule improvement addresses long-standing issues of locating all of the country’s lead pipes, includes best practices in statistics to reduce uncertainty around pipe materials, and ensures transparency by mandating that communities have regular access to critical information about service lines. Working with water utilities and cities nationwide, BlueConduit welcomes these new incentives to accelerate the rate of lead service line replacement. Now, the challenge ahead is to help water systems be as effective and cost-efficient as possible in getting the lead out in order to meet this inspiring call to action.”

Safe Water Engineering LLC President and Founder Elin Warn Betanzo: “The proposed Lead and Copper Rule Improvements begin to provide the clarity the United States has needed to ensure safe drinking water at every home: clear statements that there is no safe level of lead in drinking water, a mandate to replace all lead service lines within 10 years, requirements to find the lead lines that have existed as unknown lines for far too long, and more rigorous sampling requirements coupled with a lower lead action level. This proposal takes a more direct and proactive approach to public health protection compared to the current requirements that have been in place for far too long.”

Integrated Resource Management Founder and Managing Director Robert Bowcock: “USEPA’s proposed Lead and Copper Rule is not only based on the best available science, but the commitment to getting things done. This is the real deal, it’s finally about taking action and affirmative steps toward doing actual work and providing solutions for drinking water systems to protect children and adults from lead in drinking water.”

American Business Water Coalition: “The American Business Water Coalition applauds EPA and the Biden Administration’s proposal to eliminate lead from our nation’s water once and for all. Every business relies on safe, affordable, and reliable water, free from toxic chemicals like lead. While the President’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law made a historic down-payment on the investment needed, we now call on Congress to fully fund this ambitious—and vitally important—initiative.”

Charles Stewart Mott Foundation President & CEO Ridgway White: “The primary role of government is to protect the health and safety of its citizens, and the EPA’s proposed rule mandating that utilities remove all lead water pipes in the U.S. over the next 10 years is a giant leap forward in that regard. While the task may seem daunting, the cost of inaction would be far worse for the health of our nation — and especially our children. This move would help to ensure that our country will never have another water crisis like the one that occurred in Flint.”

The Joyce Foundation Director of Environment Programs Elizabeth Cisar: “Lead service lines and lead-contaminated drinking water create significant health risks for both children and adults in the Great Lakes region. In Illinois, Black and Brown communities are twice as likely as white communities to be exposed to these risks. Today’s announcement is an important step forward to protect public health in every community. We look forward to reviewing the rule to learn more how it will help the Great Lakes region deal with this threat once and for all.”

Pisces Foundation: “There is no safe level of lead in drinking #water, yet 9 million lead service lines are still impacting communities across the US. Today, the U.S. EPA proposed revisions to strengthen the Lead and Copper Rule and remove all lead service lines over the next 10 years.”

Water Foundation: “Today the EPA unveiled their plan to replace all lead water pipes within 10 years and #GetTheLeadOut! We’re thrilled to see this significant goal, which will help every US resident access safe drinking water. This massive commitment to public health is also a tremendous win for the environment and the economy. Thanks to everyone at the agency who worked so hard to make this happen.”


Public domain image from the National Archives Records AdministrationOpens in a new tab. circa 1940, via Wikimedia Commons.


Since 1995, Deborah has owned and operated LegalTech LLC with a focus on water rights. Before moving to Arizona in 1986, she worked as a quality control analyst for Honeywell and in commercial real estate, both in Texas. She learned about Arizona's water rights from the late and great attorney Michael Brophy of Ryley, Carlock & Applewhite. Her side interests are writing (and reading), Wordpress programming and much more.

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