EPA proposes 10-year deadline for replacing lead pipes

Media Contacts
John Rumpler

Clean Water Director and Senior Attorney, Environment America Research & Policy Center

Yana Kucher

Director of Field Analytics and Planning, The Public Interest Network

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Advocates hail landmark step to ‘get the lead out,’ encourage further action to ensure safe drinking water in schools

WASHINGTON – Consistent with a goal set by President Joe Biden, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed on Thursday a 10-year deadline for most water utilities to fully replace lead service lines. More than 9 million of these toxic pipes still bring drinking water into homes, child care facilities and other U.S. buildings, according to EPA. The agency’s proposed updates to the Lead & Copper Rule would not require schools to install water stations with filters, as required by a new law in Michigan and urged by organizations representing parents and educators.

“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,” said John Rumpler, clean water director for Environment America Research & Policy Center. “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.

Environment America Research & Policy Center and U.S. PIRG Education Fund have been urging the EPA to stop lead contamination since they launched their joint Get the Lead Out campaign in 2017. Leading up to the EPA’s announcement, the groups also published significant research, including a report evaluating state policies on the matter and a map displaying lead contamination at schools.

“Our kids deserve safe drinking water wherever they go to learn and play each day. When it comes to schools’ drinking water, we would encourage the EPA to do more homework before finalizing this rule,” Rumpler said. ”By requiring federally regulated schools to replace lead-bearing fountains with new water stations and filters on all drinking water taps, the EPA can join states like Michigan in rising to the head of the class for protecting our kids from lead-tainted water. ”

“We have long known that exposure to lead impairs development, learning and behavior in children. Yet we somehow allowed this toxic metal to be used in the pipes and plumbing that deliver our drinking water,” said Yana Kucher, the chair of U.S. PIRG Education Fund’s toxics program. “Kudos to the EPA for moving to put lead pipes into the dustbin of history.”