US President Joe Biden's administration has announced a 90-day delay of implementation of the previous Trump administration update to the Revised Lead and Copper Rule (LCR) that governs lead and copper in drinking water.
The Trump rule would have shortened the time for notification of exposure to lead in municipal (mostly) water pipes but would also have allowed a longer time for utilities to replace the lead service lines. Some critics argue that this rule is very weak and would allow lead-tainted pipes to remain for another 30 years versus the 14 years under the previous rule. US States, community activists and advocacy groups are challenging this rule in a number of courts.
The Biden decision to delay implementation will allow for longer consultation, particularly on the replacement portion of the provision. Under consideration is a three-year deadline to implement compliance with any new regulation.
Lead in drinking water can be extremely toxic and even more so for childrens’ health where lead exposure has been linked to causing brain and nervous system damage, slowed growth and development, and learning, behaviour, and motor skill issues.
Radhika Fox, the agency’s acting assistant administrator for water, has indicated that the additional review period will allow for greater public participation, including from those who have already been affected by such contamination.
In a statement, the US Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) indicated that it is committed to following the best science to address the lead issues in drinking water. The agency has also committed to maintaining a flexible approach in learning from its stakeholders and adapting solutions that meet local needs.
“It’s promising that EPA is finally committing to take a hard look at fixing the badly-broken Lead and Copper Rule. The Biden Administration has the opportunity to make history by ending the crisis of lead-contaminated water, which is a public health disaster more than a century in the making,” commented Erik D. Olson, senior strategic director for Health at the Natural Resource Defense Council.