By Peter Chawaga, Associate Editor, Water Online
Three years after lead contamination in the drinking water of Flint, MI, launched a full-fledged national crisis, the U.S. EPA has expressed its commitment to solving the problem in no uncertain terms.
“[EPA Administrator Scott] Pruitt hosted a meeting Jan. 8 for state and local officials at agency headquarters in Washington to obtain feedback on ways to update the 1991 Lead and Copper Rule [LCR], a federal mandate that dictates how communities test for lead in drinking water,” the Washington Examiner reported. “Participants are convinced Pruitt is committed to making the rule tougher as the main focus of his ‘war on lead.’”
Skeptics of the plan point to the fact that solutions have yet to materialize and that other work so far at the EPA has been focused on weakening regulations.
“Critics question Pruitt’s sincerity, noting his aggressive agenda to delay, weaken, or eliminate other EPA rules, and suggesting the agency may try to weaken the Lead and Copper Rule to help the industry,” per the Examiner.
But the problem with lead contamination stems directly from the country’s outdated drinking water service lines and solving the problem seems aligned with President Trump’s outspoken commitment to improving infrastructure. Plus, Pruitt has long been critical of the lack of progress on curbing lead contamination.
“Pruitt has criticized EPA’s enforcement of existing federal water regulation previously, including what he’s characterized as the agency’s lack of urgency in dealing with Flint’s water emergency,” according to Michigan Live. “Although testing for lead and copper was done after the change in water source in April 2014, the city disregarded LCR rules requiring it to seek out homes with lead plumbing for testing.”
While details of a plan to revamp the LCR aren’t yet public, Pruitt has indicated that he could take a holistic approach.
“I understand [replacing lead lines] is a costly endeavor,” Pruitt said during a December testimony to Congress, per the Examiner. “Look, it’s not just service lines; it’s corrosion control measures that need to be deployed, obviously paint as well. So, there’s a multi-faceted approach that we need to evaluate on how to ‘declare a war on lead,’ if you will.”
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Image credit: "Battered and Rusty Drain Pipe" Thomas Peter Bernsten © 2012, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/