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Communities Call on EPA to Finalize the Strongest Possible Safeguards to Get the Lead Out of Drinking Water and Protect Public Health. Learn more in this press release from NRDC.

WASHINGTON DC – Yesterday, as the public comment period closed for the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed Lead and Copper Rule Improvements (LCRI) to address the lead-contaminated drinking water crisis, it is clear that the overwhelming majority of comments support the strongest possible safeguards to remove lead pipes across the country - and stronger action to stop lead contamination at schools and child care centers. Hundreds of thousands of comments were submitted from local and national environmental, public health, and community advocacy groups in support of a strong LCRI (check out the online version of Clean Water Action's LCRI comments here). 

Right now, lead pipes exist in every single state in our country, and tens of million sare drinking lead-contaminated water from their kitchen taps, generally unknowingly. Dangerous exposure to lead-contaminated drinking water harms kids’ health, especially children of color, and leaves communities with long-term health impacts. The EPA’s proposed LCRI is a critical step toward finally getting the lead out of drinking water and protecting public health for impacted communities, particularly in communities of color and low-income communities who are disproportionately harmed. 

While the proposed updates to the Lead and Copper Rule are an essential step to ensure safe drinking water for all, there is still more work to be done to protect families from lead-contaminated water. Many comments focused on the way the rule can be strengthened to better protect impacted communities by requiring water utilities to take on the cost of lead service line replacement, enforcing a lower action level of 5 parts per billion, and ensuring all utilities abide by the 10-year deadline. 

The proposed rule also falls short on protections for schools and daycares, where lead contamination is widespread, due primarily to plumbing, fountains and faucets made with the toxic metal. A letter from national PTA, teachers unions the National Association of School Nurses, Environment America and more than 100 other organizations urges EPA to have water utilities install filters on taps used for drinking and cooking, and to set a lower 1 ppb limit on lead at schools’ water, as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Finalizing a strong LCRI is an opportunity to make good on the Biden Administration’s commitments to public health and environmental justice, and provide states with the mandate they need to get the lead out of impacted communities. 

In response to the overwhelming public support for strong lead in drinking water safeguards, several environmental, public health, and community advocacy organizations have released statements detailing what this broad support means for EPA as the agency works to finalize the updates to the Lead and Copper Rule. 

 “It’s time to put lead service lines behind us,” said Lynn Thorp, Clean Water Action National Campaigns Director. “We fully support EPA’s proposal to require full replacement of these pipes, which where they are present are the largest source of lead in drinking water. We will work to secure ongoing federal investment in this essential modernization of our drinking water systems.” 

“The proposed Lead and Copper Rule Improvements are a critical component to get the lead out of our country’s drinking water, " said Nayyirah Shariff, Director of Flint Rising. “ We have been fighting for clean, safe affordable water for almost 10 years in not just Flint, MI but frontline communities across the country. Exposure to lead is a public health issue.  We hope that the final rule will put the cost of replacing lead service lines on water utilities and shift the action level for lead to 1 ppb. We need to get the lead out the ground as quickly as possible.” 

“Our kids deserve safe drinking water wherever they go to learn and play each day. So when it comes to schools’ water, the EPA has a lot more homework to do before finalizing this rule,” said John Rumpler, Clean Water Director at Environment America. ”EPA should be getting water utilities to work with schools on installing filters at every tap used for drinking or cooking.” 

"Chicago is very un-proudly the lead service line capital of the country with over 400,000 lead service lines. It's time to get the lead out of our taps, and safeguard our families from this invisible toxin for good-- and fast." said Vanessa Bly, co-founder of Bridges//Puentes Justice Collective of the Southeast. "The potential to extend the timeline for our overburdened city is absurd– we need a full replacement in ten years max. We cannot afford to wait." 

“There is no safe level of lead. Children at highest risk, including Black and Brown and low-income communities often have other exposures to lead such as lead in paint or lead in the soil,” said Tracy Gregoire, Director of Healthy Children Project, at Learning Disabilities Association of America. “In addition to a lower action level of 5ppb, childcares and schools should filter first instead of on-going tests at every drinking and cooking water source which may still miss lead exposures.” 

“Illinois has nearly 700,000 lead service lines statewide and over 400,000 in Chicago alone. We simply cannot afford decades more of slow lead service line replacement," said Iyana Simba, city programs director at the Illinois Environmental Council. "In the interest of environmental justice and public health, the U.S. EPA must consider a shortened replacement timeline and federal funding to complement efforts underway.” 

“Black Millennials 4 Flint stands in solidarity with communities across the nation, advocating for the strongest possible safeguards to eradicate lead from our drinking water. As a Flint native, I personally experienced the devastating impact of the Flint Water Crisis during my childhood, enduring long-term, irreversible health consequences of lead poisoning along with my family,” said Dionna Brown, Black Millennials 4 Flint Youth EJ Programs National Director. “It is disheartening to witness the pervasive issue of lead-contaminated water, affecting millions nationwide, with a disproportionate impact on children of color. The proposed Lead and Copper Rule Improvements (LCRI) by the EPA signify a crucial step towards rectifying this crisis and protecting the health of our communities. Emphasizing the need for heightened protections, our organization focuses on advocating for measures that specifically address the challenges faced by children, pregnant women, and child birthing people. It is imperative that the finalized rule ensures water utilities assume full responsibility of lead service line replacement, enforce a lower action level of 5 parts per billion, and compel all utilities to adhere to the 10-year deadline. Additionally, we call for comprehensive measures to protect schools and daycares, addressing the widespread lead contamination in these essential institutions. This moment presents an opportunity for the Biden Administration to uphold its commitment to public health and environmental justice.” 

The Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments (ANHE) submitted comments endorsed by twenty-four nursing and health based organizations asking for health based standards in drinking water and continued health protections throughout the course of lead service line replacement. ANHE Executive Director Katie Huffling, DNP, RN, CNM, FAAN issued the following statement

“We appreciate the Biden administration’s priority of replacing all lead service lines in the next ten years. As nurses, we know that access to safe lead-free drinking water is essential for families to live healthy and productive lives, as there is no safe level of lead. Yet, in states across the nation, children, especially children of color, are exposed to lead in their tap water at home and at school because of lead service lines. We strongly encourage the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to take steps to ensure that water remains safe throughout lead service line replacement and urge EPA to set health based standards for lead in drinking water and continue lowering action levels until water does not exceed lead concentrations of 1 ppb. Communities across the country should be protected from exposure to lead and we urge EPA to quickly finalize the most thorough and health protective Lead and Copper Rule (LCR) Improvements as soon as possible and finalize a rule that prioritizes replacing all lead service lines within 10 years.”

“The EPA has a chance to take a huge bite out of the problem of lead-contaminated water. The proposed rules would take some big steps forward by requiring most water systems to remove their lead pipes in ten years, but there are some loopholes that need to be closed to make the vision of a lead pipe-free America real not a pipe dream,” said Erik D. Olson, senior strategic director for health at NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council).

“The proposed Lead and Copper Rule improvements will work to swiftly remove lead from drinking water in many communities, but we can't stop there. We urge EPA to take the additional actions needed to ensure the strongest possible safeguards to protect public health in all communities impacted by lead contamination," said Shelby Cline, Drinking Water Program Associate at River Network. 

“We greatly appreciate the EPA’s Lead and Copper Rule Improvements proposal, which is critical to protecting our families and drinking water from dangerous lead pollution,” said League of Conservation Voters Deputy Legislative Director Madeleine Foote. “The proposal’s call for mandatory lead service line replacement and improved lead testing and monitoring requirements for our drinking water is an important start, and we urge them to further strengthen the final rule by including provisions that close loopholes allowing for lead pipe replacement timeline extensions, prevent homeowners and renters from being burdened by replacement costs, and improving filtration, testing, and monitoring at schools and daycare centers. For too long, too many communities have had to worry if the water coming from the tap is safe for their families, especially in communities of color and low wealth communities who bear a disproportionate amount of the health and environmental burdens of water pollution. We hope the EPA will listen to the millions of people across the country calling for the strongest final rule to finally get the lead out and ensure safe, clean drinking water for all.” 

“Lead is a cumulative poison. There’s no reason it should be in our tap water,” said Lorie McFarlane, co-founder of Portland Advocates for Lead-free Drinking Water. “EPA is close to achieving a strong LCRI, but only if they close regulatory loopholes, set an enforceable 5 ppb  ‘Maximum Contaminant Level’, and prohibit misleading Utility marketing. Even when there are supposedly no lead pipes, water that’s improperly treated causes serious lead contamination, as it has here for years. Local officials have prolonged this silent crisis by keeping the public in the dark and failing to provide free tap filters. We know 5 ppb MCL at the tap is both feasible and health-protective. It’s time to come clean on all!”

This press release was originally issued by NRDC, an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 3 million members and online activists. 


Since the organization’s founding during the campaign to pass the landmark Clean Water Act in 1972, Clean Water Action has worked to win strong health and environmental protections by bringing issue expertise, solution-oriented thinking, and people power to the table.

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