Lead & Copper Rule Revised
The Lead and Copper Rule (LCR) protects public health by minimizing lead and copper levels in drinking water, primarily by reducing corrosion of plumbing materials. Exposure to lead and copper may cause health problems ranging from stomach distress to brain damage. This rule applies to all community public water systems (PWS) and non-transient non-community water systems (approximately 7,000 in Texas). The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) federally regulates the LCR laws under the Safe Drinking Water Act (40 CFR Part 141 Subpart I), but it is the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) who administers the program locally in the state (Texas Administrative Code §290.117).
LJA Environmental Director, Dyer Schlitzkus, has approximately a decade of experience with the current LCR; TCEQ Drinking Water Program; field collections; regulatory compliance; building and hosting custom, web-based, client dashboards; and providing education/informative sessions on such topics. This includes representing or collecting samples within approximately 400 systems throughout Texas. However, change is coming soon. On Dec. 16, 2021, the Lead and Copper Rule Revised (LCRR) will be in effect with a full compliance date of September 16, 2024, as proposed but not finalized.
In summary of efforts to date, we have been collecting samples under the current regulations. The data has been reviewed because of reporting requirements and assessed by the EPA and TCEQ for many years to develop the LCRR.
Collectively, the agencies are now going to require additional documents and plans to be prepared, supplementary sampling and revised sampling procedures, lower sample result thresholds, removal of lead bearing materials, and pro-active ‘Find and Fix’ approach. The time for change is upon us.
What is the LCRR?
EPA’s new LCRR further protects children and communities from the risks of lead exposure by getting the lead out of our nation’s drinking water, better protecting children at schools and childcare facilities, and empowering communities through information. Advancements under the new rule include:
- Using science-based testing protocols to find more sources of lead in drinking water.
- Establishing a trigger level to jumpstart mitigation earlier and in more communities.
- Driving more and complete lead service line replacements.
- For the first time, requiring testing in schools and childcare facilities.
- Requiring water systems to identify and make public the locations of lead service lines
What does the LCRR include?
Lead Service Line Inventory: Specifically, EVERY system or their engineers/operators will be required to conduct a Lead Service Line Inventory under the new protocols to find more sources of lead. By September 16, 2024, EVERY line or segments of line from the distribution system’s point-of-entry to the house or building point-of-entry (figure below, including private property pipe) must be documented, including location, material types, and LJA recommends year of installation, diameter of pipe, and meter/valve models. Material types consist of: (1) lead; (2) non-lead; (3) galvanized downstream of lead; and (4) unknown pipe material. This inventory is required to be reviewed, updated, and submitted annually or triennially. Furthermore, the inventory, or a map of the system, must be publicly available and accessible to the community. In populations excess of 50,000 this information is required to be hosted online. Systems with known lead service lines, galvanized lines downstream of lead lines, and/or unknown lead status lines MUST develop a Lead Service Line Replacement Plan.
Lead Service Line Replacement Plan: Systems with known lead lines, galvanized lines downstream of lead lines, and/or unknown lead status lines must develop a plan to replace and/or identify the line type(s) within 3 years of LCRR publication (September 16, 2024). The plan will include:
- Strategy(ies) for determining unknown line material
- Procedures to conduct full replacement of lead lines
- Strategy to inform customers (full or partial)
- Recommend replacement goal rate (population >10,000)
- ·Procedures for customers to flush particulate lead
- Prioritization strategy for replacement pipe segments/sections of the system
- Funding strategy for customers unable to pay for their portion of the replacement
Lead service line replacement plans also include the following timing and detail requirements:
- PWS system must complete their replacement within 45 days of customer replacement. Option: Provide filter or POU device with replacement cartridges until fully replaced
- System must submit updated plan no later than 30 days after the end of the water system’s annual lead service line replacement requirements
- Continue to submit it each year it conducts lead service line replacement
- Track and report the number of lead and galvanized lines remaining to be replaced, as well as the number of those replaced for each type each year
- The number of lead status unknown service lines remaining in the inventory
- The total number of service lines initially inventoried as “non-lead” later discovered to be a lead service line or a galvanized requiring replacement service line
- The number of full lead service lines that have been replaced and the address associated with each replaced service line
- The number of galvanized requiring replacement service lines that have been replaced and the address associated with each replaced service line
- Galvanized pipe presumed to be downstream of lead and is included in the replacement rate
- Mandatory 3% replacement rate per year after a lead action level (>15 µg/L) exceedance. Based on a rolling two-year average
- Mandates risk mitigation best practices after partial LSLR that may cause lead disturbances
Lead Trigger Level: The agencies have added a new monitoring threshold to proactively initiate planning and re-optimization of system when sample results are above >10 µg/L. All systems exceeding the trigger level must: (1) increase monitoring to annual; (2) conduct corrosion control treatment or re-optimization study; (3) conduct public outreach to customers with lead, galvanized downstream of lead, or unknown service lines; and (4) implement goal-based lead service line replacement plan.
Tap Monitoring Protocol: Furthermore, the agencies have revised the Site Selection and Sampling Processes for conducting tap monitoring. Samples are now to be collected from sites at the highest risk of leaching lead and copper into drinking water. Sites must be prioritized by lead lines first, then galvanized downstream of lead, copper lines with lead solder, and finally other representative sample sites within the system. Where there is lead in the system, the sampler must draw the first 1-liter bottle of water to be analyzed for copper. After flushing 3 liters of water, the fifth liter will be collected and analyzed for lead. Where there is no evidence of lead in the system, the normal procedure of collecting the first draw 1-liter bottle of water will suffice and be analyzed for both lead and copper.
Find and Fix Assessment: This requirement applies to individual sample result of excess of >15 µg/L. Specifically, water quality parameter (WQP) monitoring is required at or near the site where the lead exceedance was collected within 5 days of the results being posted. Additionally, supplemental lead and copper tap monitoring is required at the individual site within 30 days. An assessment of these findings and recommendation(s) to “fix” issues will be submitted to TCEQ within 6 months. Options may include increased flushing, increased corrosion control feed rates, or no action.
Small System Flexibility Options – Applies to populations of 10,000 or less: Systems exceeding the lead trigger level (>10 µg/L) during sampling events must evaluate and recommend one of four compliance alternatives:
- Lead service line replacement
- Corrosion control treatment
- Point-of-Use filtration devices
- Replacement of lead bearing plumbing materials
For lead action level (>15 µg/L) exceedance, the system must implement the following:
- 15-year lead service line replacement plan
- Implement or re-optimize corrosion control treatment
- POU devices must be maintained by the system. Customers must be provided filter cartridges until replacement is completed
Testing in Schools and Childcare Facilities: The following items must be completed for schools and childcare facilities. Results must be reported to the TCEQ as well as local and state health departments.
- Compile a list of all schools (K-12) and state-listed childcare facilities
- Perform lead testing at 20% of elementary schools AND 20% of childcare facilities within the first five years following the compliance date
- Perform lead testing in all secondary schools (6-12 grades) upon request within the first five years following the compliance date
- Perform lead testing at all schools and childcare facilities upon request after the first five years following the compliance due date
Why is it important to comply?
The figure below provides insight to some of the many harmful effects lead has on people, and more dangerously to children during their early development. Besides the numerous human and health risks, systems must abide by the LCRR to avoid regulatory violations and negative publicity. Noncompliance will trigger additional and more in-depth investigations, documentations, and potentially exorbitant fees. It is much easier and more cost efficient to conduct the proper LCRR policies and procedures than to face additional challenges associated with potential violations.
What can LJA provide to help?
LJA can provide support for any single item under the LCRR to a full custom program for your specific water system(s). We will navigate this regulatory change to ease the transition and compliance of the new requirements. LJA services include:
- Preparation of a Lead Service Line Inventory and/or Replacement Plan
- GIS/mapping support, including custom web-based dashboards (3 figures below)
- Surveying for plan development, construction as-builts, etc.
- Right-of-Way support for community involvement, accessing private property, and customer outreach
- Brochure, pamphlet, informative information, and filtration devices (figure below)
- Project management and progress tracking
- Environmental sampling plans and services, including WQPs
- Find and Fix Assessments
- Engineering, planning, and design services to map current locations and replace lines
- Construction management and inspection
- General regulatory guidance and system options
LJA will provide the best LCRR experience and services available to our clients. This is accomplished by the most experienced consulting firm and staff in the State of Texas. With nearly 1,300 employee-owners, LJA can tackle any project small or large, and from an initial thought to project completion. Although we cannot guarantee lead-free sample results, we can assure you your project will be performed correctly based on our depth of knowledge in water systems and regulatory compliance.
Your LCRR Expert
Please contact Dyer Schlitzkus, LJA Environmental Services Director at dschlitzkus@LJA.com. We are here to help.