I’ve been working on the question of what water should be protected by the Clean Water Act for 19 years. Polluters and their allies in Congress have been trying to remove some water bodies from the Act’s jurisdiction for just as long, so you would think I ran out of outrage a long time ago. But no.
President Biden proposed a lot of money for funding of lead pipe replacement in the American Jobs Plan. This could be a game changer. Removing the largest source of lead in drinking water is an enormous and expensive task. The cost of lead service line replacement has been the biggest barrier to both decisive federal regulation and proactive water system and community action. In addition to the President’s plan, significant funding has been included in several bills introduced or in the works in both the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House this year.
During the past three months of stay-at-home time, obtaining “things” took on new complications. I’ve found that I don’t really need all the items that might pop into my head. “Do I really need this?” is a daily question. This came to mind last week as we commented to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on regulating PFAS chemicals in drinking water (See here for background on these chemicals and drinking water challenges.).
What's with all the bottled water?
As people stocked up on food and essential items for their time at home to help slow the spread of the COVID-19, I saw shopping carts full of bottled water. Television shots and videos on social media of shoppers often showed the same thing. It seems that over the last two decades, our preparation for natural disasters started to include bottled water -- and a lot of it.. There is reason to prepare for disruption in water service in a hurricane. What about during a pandemic?
As I watched a February 11 hearing about regulating lead at the tap, I experienced one of those “Opposite Day” episodes where two objective realities collide. I listened to 7 witnesses talk to the U.S. Congress about the proposed revisions to the Safe Drinking Water Act Lead and Copper Rule. My colleague Kim Gaddy, who lives in Newark, talked about what the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) should do to improve the proposal.
Under current regulations, if water systems exceed the Action Level for lead, they must take a number of actions including commencing lead service line replacement at a rate of 7% annually. EPA’s proposed LCR revisions reduce this rate to 3% while closing some loopholes and proposing other requirements that will support more efficient and effective replacement programs. While closing loopholes and putting in place other requirements to make replacement activities more effective are positive steps, EPA is justified in lowering the required rate of replacement. When systems exceed the lead Action Level, 7% is a realistic yet ambitious rate of replacement.
The purpose of the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) Lead and Copper Rule (LCR) is to reduce lead and copper at the tap. EPA’s proposed revisions to the LCR make significant changes to the aspects related to lead. EPA is accepting comments on the proposal until February 13, 2020. This is the second in a series of blog posts on specific aspects of EPA’s proposal. Read Part 1 here.
UPDATE: The public comment period closed on February 12, 2020. Clean Water Action members submitted more than 15,000 letters and emails asking EPA to do more to protect our water and communities from lead.
The Trump/Wheeler Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is dismantling critical parts of the Clean Water Act one by one. Cumulatively these are the most serious threat to our nation’s bedrock environmental law in its history. If these administration attacks are finalized, the Clean Water Act could be severely weakened. Since the Trump administration is parceling out these assaults, it can be hard to see the full picture. So we wanted to take a step back and explain was is at stake for the rule of law, the Clean Water Act, and, most importantly, our health and the health of our water.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a plan that summarizes ongoing activity, affirms commitments the agency made in May 2018, and announces several new initiatives. The “PFAS Action Plan” is an exhaustive review of what EPA is doing and commits to some new initiatives.
Given the urgency around PFAS chemicals it is still literally the least EPA can do.