Design and Construction, Maintenance and Operations, Plumbing, Safety

EPA Announces Plan to Remove All Lead Drinking Water Lines

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently 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 years.

The agency is also proposing additional improvements to protect public health, such as lowering the lead action level and improving sampling protocols used by water systems.

This “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,” states an EPA news release.

“Lead in drinking water is a generational public health issue, and EPA’s proposal will accelerate progress towards President Biden’s goal of replacing every lead pipe across America once and for all,” said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan in the release. “With collaboration and the focused actions proposed today, EPA is delivering on our charge to protect all Americans, especially communities of color, that are disproportionately harmed by lead in drinking water systems.”

Key provisions in the proposal include:

  • Achieving 100% lead pipe replacement within 10 years.
  • Locating legacy lead pipes.
  • Improving tap sampling.
  • Lowering the lead action level. The EPA is proposing to lower the lead action level from 15 micrograms per liter (μg/L) to 10 μg/L.
  • Strengthening protections to reduce exposure.

The proposal would also require water systems to communicate more frequently and proactively with consumers about lead service lines and the systems’ plans for replacing the lines.

This proposal is part of the Biden administration’s vision for a lead-free future and advances the administration’s Lead Pipe and Paint Action Plan, a whole-of-government approach to reduce all sources of lead exposure, according to a White House Fact Sheet on the proposed regulation.

“The science is clear, there is no safe level of lead exposure,” states the EPA Fact Sheet on the proposed rule. “In adults, lead can cause increased blood pressure, heart disease, decreased kidney function, and cancer. In children, it can severely harm mental and physical development, slowing down learning and damaging the brain.”


The EPA’s comprehensive approach to removing lead from drinking water systems includes:

  • Regulatory framework: The EPA’s proposed Lead and Copper Rule Improvements follow the science and the EPA’s authority under the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) to strengthen regulatory requirements to address lead in drinking water.
  • Funding: The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) provides $50 billion to support upgrades to the nation’s drinking water and wastewater infrastructure. This includes $15 billion dedicated to lead service line replacement and $11.7 billion of general Drinking Water State Revolving Funds (DWSRFs) that can also be used for lead service line replacement. To date, the EPA has awarded over $3.5 billion in funding for lead service line replacement across the country.
  • Technical assistance: The EPA’s water technical assistance (WaterTA), including the recently launched Get the Lead Out Initiative, which will partner with 200 underserved communities nationwide, helps communities identify lead services lines, develop replacement plans, and apply for funding to get the lead out.
  • Practical implementation tools: Through training, tools, webinars, and case studies, the EPA provides support to drinking water systems to reduce lead exposure.

Commenting on the Proposed Rule

Comments on the proposed rule will be accepted through February 5, 2024, on the Federal e-Rulemaking platform under Docket ID Number: EPA-HQ-OW-2022-0801.

The EPA will also hold a virtual public hearing on January 16, 2024, at which the public will be invited to provide the EPA with verbal comments. For more information on the proposed rule and to register for the public hearing, see the EPA’s Proposed Lead and Copper Rule Improvements website.

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