Public health groups that have waited decades for the federal government to overhaul its lead-in-water rules were outraged Thursday over EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler’s “wrongheaded” plan to update the regulations .
The overhaul, which Wheeler detailed at a press conference in Green Bay, Wisconsin, does not include the removal of at least six million lead service lines that have been underground for decades.
That provision’s absence from the plan effectively negates the changes that the Trump administration does plan to make, water safety experts said.
“Everything else is small potatoes,” Erik Olson of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) told the Washington Post. “From a public health standpoint, that’s absolutely critical. There are going to be problems with lead contamination as long as you leave lead pipes in the ground.”
Under the new rules, the EPA will require an inventory of all lead service lines and demand that utilities notify homeowners of elevated lead levels within 24 hours of testing for them. The administration will also do away with testing loopholes that can temporarily lower how lead levels show up in tests.
“Safe drinking water is a basic human right; by weakening the rule, Wheeler’s EPA is giving reprieve to one of the worst toxic scourges known to science.”
—Erik Olson, NRDC
The “trigger level” for lead, used to determine when utilities must work to lower lead levels and build new pipes, will be lowered from 15 parts per billion to 10 parts per billion.
But critics said none of those provisions will make a sufficient difference for public safety as long as lead service lines remain underground across the country.
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