EPA proposes rewrite of rules on lead contamination in water
WASHINGTON — The Trump administration on Thursday proposed a rewrite of rules for dealing with lead pipes contaminating drinking water, but critics say the changes appear to give water systems decades more time to replace pipes leaching dangerous amounts of toxic lead.
Contrary to regulatory rollbacks in many other environmental areas, the administration has called dealing with lead contamination in drinking water a priority. Communities and families in Flint, Michigan, Newark, New Jersey, and elsewhere have had to grapple with high levels of lead in tap water and with regulatory failures dealing with the health threat.
At a news conference in Green Bay, Wisconsin, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler announced changes that include requiring water systems to test lead levels in water at schools and child care facilities. Other changes would require officials to identify the areas with the worst contamination and toughen procedures for sampling tap water.
But Wheeler disappointed conservation groups by declining to lower the level of lead contamination in drinking water systems that triggers mandatory remediation.
And another change would lower the amount of lead pipe that water systems have to replace each year once the threshold is hit, cutting it from 7% to 3%.
That, according to Eric Olson at the Natural Resources Defense Council conservation group, would give water utilities about 20 more years to fully replace all the lead pipes in a contaminated system.