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Preparing Your 2024 LCRR and LCRI Game Plan

March 2, 2024
Min Read
Woman across the table from 2 men talking

Mark Zito, the Trinnex® product management lead and architect of leadCAST®, and Katie Deeher, Trinnex product leader and analytics consultant, recently conducted a webinar to shed more light on the Lead and Copper Rule Revisions (LCRR) and the proposed Lead and Copper Rule Improvements (LCRI) requirements and generate awareness around software-as-a-service (SaaS) offerings that can help utilities navigate the regulatory landscape.

Let’s look at the regulations and what they require from utilities.

The Proposed LCRI: Key Takeaways

The proposed regulations involve all lead and galvanized requiring replacement, and have requirements around continuing inventory, and more.

Here’re the highlights:

  • Replacement mandate: All lead and galvanized requiring replacement must be replaced within 10 years (by 2037).
  • Inventory update: The inventory must be updated every year and should include connectors.
  • Validation pool: Utilities need to establish a non-lead validation pool, which should include service lines categorized as non-lead.
  • Water quality and sampling: New updates to compliance sampling as well as school and daycare sampling must be paid attention to.
  • Public communication: The updated requirements around public information sharing and engagement as well as communication, tracking, and notification timelines must be adhered to.

The Replacement Mandate

The proposed LCRI, a 622-page document unveiled in November 2023, suggests replacing all lead and galvanized service lines within a decade, starting in 2027 and ending by October 2037. This applies to lines within water systems' jurisdiction and accessible for replacement. Systems serving over 50,000 people must also share their plan publicly.

In the proposed LCRI, partial replacements, except in rare cases, are banned, and replacing only the lead gooseneck or connector is considered a major disturbance, requiring a filter for the resident.

And that’s not all. Water utilities must now make at least four attempts to offer a complete service line replacement with property owners and track these efforts.

What is the Impact on Utilities wrt Cost?

Replacing a single service line can cost anywhere from $5,000 to $15,000 and will have several moving parts that are tough to manage— especially with tracking the number of attempts made to a property owner to replace their line.

In addition to this, the rate of replacement is based on your inventory and the number of unknowns in that inventory beginning 2027. Therefore, reducing the number of unknowns before 2027 will be key.

Purpose-built Tools to Comply with LCRR and LCRI

Using a centralized data management system such as leadCAST — purpose built for the LCRR and the LCRI compliance, and which also has a pre-configured replacement tracking feature — will reduce the complexity of managing a large lead service line replacement program.

These tools enable you to focus on the tasks that help protect public health, keep everyone informed, and save your time that would be otherwise spent in filling out spreadsheets and chasing people for the latest updates.

Since the basis of the replacement program is an inventory, having a tool built on top of your existing inventory will make the planning and maintenance much more streamlined. This will also enable you to quantify the replacement target and embark on a replacement program right away.

Easing the Service Line Replacement with Digital Tools for Construction Management

The construction management process involves collecting things such as right of entries to gain access to the property, assigning contracts, tracking replacements, getting replacement program set up and communicated out to your public, and so on.

You can use the data management tool to:

  • Collect the digital right of entries via forms built in the data management tool, either through a field within a tablet or through an online customer portal that allows property owners to sign the right of entries off in their own time. This will save you time and money while making the whole process more efficient.
  • Plan the properties to perform replacements by building out a schedule that is accessible to internal stakeholders as well as the public.

After the plan is set, your construction crew can report progress in real time using mobile tools for tracking replacement. These mobile tools should be pre-configured to collect information — such as the existing pipe material, the property condition before construction starts, and if the connector was replaced — about the replacement.

It is recommended to back all this up with photographic evidence so that you can be assured that everything was done according to your plan.

Contact and communications management systems should be built into the same platform, enabling you to get instant access to the property owner/resident, communicate with them, and track the attempts made.

A challenge to deal with is when three attempts have already been made and then the property ownership changes; in this case, the process starts all over again. So, you need to ensure your solution is tracking the ownership change and other such major/minor factors too for you.

LCRI, LCRR, and the Baseline Inventory

The LCRI deadline of October 2027 does not change the October 16, 2024 deadline of LCRR, making it crucial to stay on track with the initial inventory. The baseline inventory, proposed in the LCRI, includes connectors (defined by EPA as less than two feet) that must be classified under certain categories including lead, previously lead, never lead, unknown or no connector present.

The proposed rule requires water utilities to continue updating the inventory annually, make it available to the public, and report on lead replacements completed each year.

LCRI-suggested Non-lead Validation Pool and its Significance

A new requirement is for utilities to establish the non-lead validation pool, which should include service lines categorized as non-lead (identified through a single source of verification). Service line materials identified through multiple points of verification such as records and physical verifications are not included in the validation pool.

Utilities will need to field-verify the material of a random subset of services in their non-lead validation pool within seven years to have a 95% confidence level that the entire validation pool is not lead.

The size of the physically verified subset will be specific for each utility and will be determined based on the number of services within that utility. Non-lead validation pool will be for between 300 and 400 locations.

Impact of the Continuing Inventory Requirements and its Solutions

Notable impacts for utilities are on time, cost, inventory management, and communication.

  • Time and cost: Identifying unknown service lines is time consuming and expensive, especially for utilities with a lot of unknowns in their inventory. Such utilities must try to bring this number down as the unknowns will impact your replacement goals and could end up with a replacement rate that's difficult, if not impossible, to meet.
  • Inventory management: Adding connectors to the inventory requires new records, research and potentially site visits, impacting the inventory management substantially.
  • Communications: Since the service line inventory and lead replacement information is sensitive, it must be communicated to the public in a thoughtful way.

A tool built specifically for LCRR and now LCRI compliance, with robust inventory management system that allows utilities to easily understand, track, and manage materials in their inventory, can be an all-in-one solution for utilities.

This tool can:

  • Store documentation such as photos and inspection logs and includes an audit trail that allows tracking changes over time
  • Meet some of the newer and more specific requirements of the LCRI such as the non-lead validation pool requirement

Another solution is leveraging predictive modelling. Predictions can be used to label some of the unknowns in the inventory as either lead or non-lead, where the model  strongly predicts one or the other.

For systems that don't have lead but still have a lot of unknowns, you can use statistical analysis to demonstrate the absence of these materials in a representative subset of field verifications.

Here’re the states accepting this approach.

Nitty Gritty of the Proposed Rule: Sampling and Beyond

The proposed rule aims to reduce the lead action level in drinking water, making it safer by lowering the acceptable limit from 15 parts per billion to 10 parts per billion. Here’re more details:

  • If a property has lead service lines, water samples need to be taken from both the 1st and 5th levels, with the higher level reported.
  • The previously known Find and Fix protocol is now called System and Site Assessment, which becomes mandatory after just one instance of exceeding the lead limit.
  • Residents must be informed of sample results within three days, and free sample kits will be provided to properties with lead galvanized or unknown service line material. Filters will also be offered.
  • If more than three exceedances occur within five years, the implementation of new criteria will be delayed until 2028, including school and daycare sampling.
  • Efforts made since January 2021 will count towards sampling requirements, potentially saving costs.

With all the changes, such as notifying residents within the required timeframe and providing test kits to select properties, the rule will increase complexity in managing sampling logistics. Automation is suggested as a solution to manage these processes efficiently.

Overall, the rule aims to enhance drinking water safety but necessitates careful consideration of its logistical challenges. Let’s look at the solution in detail.

Streamlining Sampling Management

leadCAST, in partnership with SimpleLab, offers drop shipping solutions directly to consumers. Residents can request kits through the leadCAST public portal, which are then approved and shipped directly to their homes. This system can be  tailored to offer kits to residents with lead, galvanized pipes needing replacement or with unknown pipe materials, fulfilling the requirement to offer free kits. Integrating a data management system with labs enables automated notifications to residents within the required three-day window, eliminating manual processes such as transcription and mailing. Automated workflows with notifications further ease compliance burdens. This streamlined process enhances public engagement and ensures efficient delivery of essential information and services to residents.

Enhancing Public Engagement

The EPA-proposed measures to enhance public engagement include improving education on lead exposure, increasing messaging to consumers, and alerting them about significant updates regarding their water supply. Some key requirements from utilities include:

  • Responding to inquiries about incorrect material categorizations within 60 days
  • Delivering lead and copper sampling results to consumers within three days regardless of concentration levels
  • Providing instructions for accessing inventory and replacement plans in Consumer Confidence reports
  • Ensuring compliance with notification and outreach requirements (as water systems intensify inventory development activities like field investigations)
  • Meeting shorter notification timelines, including 24-hour notification for action level exceedances, owing to the expected increase in exceedances due to a proposed lowering of the action level
  • Offering full translations of public engagement materials in areas with limited English proficiency, potentially requiring outsourcing if in-house capabilities are lacking.

These requirements pose resource-intensive challenges for utilities, necessitating staffing support year-round. However, platforms such as CAST can assist in mitigating some of these impacts, offering solutions to streamline communication and compliance efforts.

Portal for Compliance Convenience

The EPA is proposing measures to increase public engagement regarding lead in drinking water. One crucial aspect is establishing a public portal where utilities can communicate with consumers. This portal provides a direct and verifiable method for consumers to contact the water utility, with all communications logged for compliance. Additionally, tools such as leadCAST integrate with SimpleLab and help in compliance by allowing real-time sharing of sampling results and offers translation support for customer-facing communications.

The webinar conducted provided insights into several aspects of LCRR and LCRI, and suggested solutions that will help utilities tread the regulatory landscape of the EPA. Built on trust and innovation, Trinnex’s solutions aim to help utilities help make your water safe to drink, and partner with utilities to forge a path towards a safer and healthier future for all.

Click to listen to the complete webinar recording.

You can also view the complete list of LCRR/LCRI FAQs here.

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Written by
Mark Zito, GISP
Product Leader | Senior Solutions Consultant
Mark has over 15 years of experience in geospatial data science and is an expert in Lead & Copper Rule software, including leadCAST.

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