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The Clock’s Ticking: Implications of Meeting (or Missing) the LCRR/LCRI Deadlines

April 26, 2024
Min Read
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On November 30, 2023, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published the proposed Lead and Copper Rule Improvements (LCRI) — a proposal to strengthen its Lead and Copper Rule (LCR). LCR, published in 1991, established a maximum contaminant level goal (MCLG) of zero for lead in drinking water and a treatment technique to reduce corrosion of lead and copper within the distribution system. Then came the Lead and Copper Rule Revisions (LCRR), with the requirement of science-based testing protocols, requiring water systems to identify and make public the locations of lead service lines, and the need to prepare and maintain an inventory of service line materials.

To further eliminate lead from drinking water, EPA released the proposed LCRI, which requires most water utilities to replace lead service lines within 10 years, and thus help secure safe drinking water for communities across the country. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law devotes over $50 billion for the largest upgrade to the nation’s water infrastructure in history. This includes $15 billion dedicated to replacing lead service lines, providing technical assistance to communities, and supporting the development of a national inventory of lead service lines, and $11.7 billion dedicated to general Drinking Water State Revolving Funds, which can also be used for lead service line replacement. The LCRI may be finalized and implemented by October 16, 2024.

This article discusses the opportunities and risks associated with meeting the compliance deadline for the LCRR and LCRI. The LCRR/LCRI aims to improve public health by reducing lead exposure in drinking water. Water systems have until October 2024 to submit a service line inventory and comply with the regulations.

Opportunities brought about by meeting the October 2024 deadline

  • Reduce risks of lead exposure and adverse health effects: Improving public health is at the essence of this regulation. Removing lead will reduce its exposure to customers (especially infants, children, and pregnant women) and thus reduce its harmful health effects, such as decreased IQ, increased risks of heart disease, high blood pressure, kidney, or problems with nervous system earning and behavior.
  • Identify funding and support: Funding available from the federal government through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law allocates $15 billion for lead service line replacement over the next five years. Some states also offer expedited programs to help water systems with inventory-related funding.
  • Enhance compliance with LCRR/LCRI requirements: Water systems that meet the October 2024 inventory deadline will be able to more readily comply with other requirements of the LCRR/LCRI, such as notifying and educating households with lead service lines, sampling for lead in schools and child-care facilities, and implementing corrosion control treatment.
  • Improve communication and engagement with customers and community: These proactive actions will help build public trust and awareness around lead in drinking water.
  • Advance your utility’s digital transformation: From digitizing paper records to developing a GIS layer for your public and private service lines, this compliance effort will provide an opportunity to create data sets that can be used for O&M activities, future meter installations, customer service analytics, and more. Completing this effort now will pay dividends in the future.

Risks of missing the compliance deadline

  • Possible enforcement actions and financial penalties: Water systems that fail to submit a service line inventory by October 2024 will be in violation of the National Primary Drinking Water Regulations and may face public notification, increased oversight, fines, and administrative orders from the EPA.
  • Negative impacts on public trust and health: Water systems that do not comply with the LCRR may also face public outcry and legal action from communities that discover a lack of transparency or information about lead in drinking water. Lead exposure can cause serious health effects in all age groups, especially infants, children, and pregnant women.
  • Lost opportunities for funding and support: Water systems that do not complete their service line inventory by October 2024 may miss out on the “once-in-a-generation” funding available from the federal government through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and various state grants.
  • Utilities will have to play “catch up” with related compliance deadlines: Water systems that fail to submit will need to spend additional effort for the upcoming regulations around LCRI, school and daycare sampling, and related.

Choose Proactivity

Meeting the October 2024 inventory compliance deadline presents several opportunities for water systems, including improved public health, access to funding, enhanced compliance with future regulations, and improved communication with customers. However, missing the deadline may result in enforcement actions, negative impacts on public trust and health, lost opportunities for funding, and additional effort to catch up with related compliance deadlines. It is crucial for water systems to take proactive steps to meet the October 2024 deadline and capitalize on the opportunities it presents.

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