EPA Proposes Tighter Lead Rules

The Environmental Protection Agency plans to tighten its rules on lead in drinking water.

The Environmental Protection Agency plans to tighten its rules on lead in drinking water. Proposed revisions, announced in early July, would revise monitoring requirements and require utilities to receive state approval of treatment system changes, among other things.

“This proposal reflects the administration’s commitment to protect public health. These revisions will prescribe stronger requirements for water system operators and will ensure the American people have access to the fundamental public service of clean, safe drinking water,” said Benjamin Grumbles, assistant administrator for water.

To address confusion about sample collection, the Agency is proposing to clarify language in the rule that speaks to the number of samples required and the number of sites from which samples should be collected. The Agency is also modifying definitions for monitoring and compliance periods to make it clear that all samples must be taken within the same calendar year. Finally, the Agency has proposed revisions to the reduced monitoring criteria that would prevent utilities that exceed the lead action level from initiating or remaining on a reduced monitoring schedule based solely on results of water quality parameter monitoring.

The proposed rule change would also require water systems to provide advanced notification to the primacy agency of intended changes in treatment or source water that could increase corrosion of lead. The state primacy agency must approve the planned changes using a process that will allow the states and water systems to take as much time as needed for systems and states to consult about potential problems.

While many water utilities indicate that they provide the results of monitoring to customers, there is no requirement in the regulations for them to do so. To address this issue, the Agency is proposing changes to the regulation that require utilities to provide a notification of tap water monitoring results for lead to owners and/or occupants of homes and buildings that are part of the utility’s sampling program.

The current regulations allow utilities to consider lead service lines that test below the action level as “replaced” for the purposes of compliance. The Agency is proposing revisions to the rule that would require these utilities to reconsider previously “tested-out” lines when resuming lead service line replacement programs.

This provision will only apply to systems that had (1) initiated a lead service line replacement program; (2) complied with the lead action level for two consecutive monitoring periods and discontinued the lead service line replacement program; and (3) subsequently were re-triggered into lead service line replacement. All previously “tested-out” lines would then have to be tested again or added back into the sampling pool and considered for replacement.

The LCR requires water systems to deliver public education materials after a lead action level exceedance. EPA is proposing a change in the content of the message to be provided to consumers, how the materials are delivered to consumers, and the timeframe in which materials must be delivered. The changes to the delivery requirements include additional organizations that systems must partner with to disseminate the message to at-risk populations as well as changes in the ways information is disseminated to ensure water systems reach consumers when there is an action level exceedance. In addition to the changes in public education for the Lead and Copper Rule, EPA is proposing to modify requirements for educational statements about lead in drinking water in the annual Consumer Confidence Report.

The total annual direct costs to water systems resulting from the proposed rule change is estimated between $4.8 and $5.1 million. The majority of these costs to water systems are from the monitoring and public education requirements of the revisions. For state primacy agencies, the annual direct costs are estimated between $281,000 and $456,000. The majority of the costs to state primacy agencies arise from the state review and approval requirement for treatment changes included in the revisions. The one time costs for review of the rule and implementation for water systems and state primacy agencies are approximately $8.1 million and $730,000, respectively.

The proposal is an outgrowth of EPA’s March 2005 drinking water lead-reduction plan. The agency developed the plan after analyzing the efficacy of the regulation and how states and locals were implementing it. The agency collected and analyzed lead information required by the regulations, reviewed the states’ implementation, held five expert workshops about elements of the regulations, and worked to better understand local and state monitoring for lead in drinking water in schools and child-care facilities.

EPA Reports On Drinking Water SRF

The EPA has issued a report saying the federal government, the states and Puerto Rico have invested almost $9.5 billion in drinking water improvements since 1996. The Drinking Water SRF 2005 annual report, the first of its kind, focused on nearly 4,400 projects that range from water treatment, transmission and distribution, and rehabilitation of wells to developing new sources of water, upgrading storage facilities, and consolidating water systems.

“The Drinking Water State Revolving Fund is a thriving, multi-billion dollar partnership that protects public health and sustains America’s water infrastructure,” said Assistant Administrator for Water Benjamin H. Grumbles. “It has a robust future and will continue to provide critical assistance to help communities provide safe drinking water and meet economic needs.”

Congress established the drinking water program in 1996 to help finance infrastructure improvements. EPA awards grants to states, which, in turn, provide low-cost loans and other assistance to eligible water systems.

EPA said since 1997, the fund programs have improved public health protection for 100 million people. In recent years, the program has averaged more than $1.3 billion in annual assistance to drinking water systems. It noted that no participants have defaulted on their loans.

EPA said low interest rates make state programs attractive to the participating drinking water systems. Since the program’s inception, almost 73% of all Drinking Water SRF loans have been made to water systems serving fewer than 10,000 people. This aspect is particularly important to small and disadvantaged systems that have difficulty obtaining affordable financing.

EPA said state Drinking Water SRF programs advance public health protection in two ways: they provide an accessible and affordable source of financing for infrastructure improvements, and they improve a system’s ability to provide safe and reliable drinking water.

Water Transfer Rule Clarification Proposed

EPA has proposed a rule that to clarify that permits are not needed for transfers of water from one body of water to another.

Such transfers include routing water through tunnels, channels, or natural stream courses for public water supplies, irrigation, power generation, flood control, and environmental restoration.

EPA said thousands of water transfers currently in place across the country are vital to the water infrastructure. Whether a permit is needed under the Clean Water Act’s National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) has been an issue in numerous court cases in recent years.

The proposed rule would define such transfers as the movement of water between bodies of water without subjecting the water to intervening industrial, municipal or commercial use.

In 2004, the question of whether NPDES permits were necessary for water transfers went to the U.S. Supreme Court. The court did not rule directly on the issue, in the case of South Florida Water Management District vs. Miccosukee Tribe of Indians, allowing continuing uncertainty.

EPA said it has concluded that Congress intended water resource-management agencies and other state authorities to oversee water transfers, not the NPDES permitting program, and aid its rulemaking codifies that conclusion.

EPA Launches Water Efficiency Program

WaterSense, a new water efficiency program launched by EPA, will educate American consumers on making smart water choices that save money and maintain high environmental standards without compromising performance.

“Efficient products and informed consumers lead to smart water use. EPA’s WaterSense program will provide water solutions that are a win-win for our wallets and our environment. WaterSense just makes sense,” said EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson. “WaterSense advances President Bush’s cooperative conservation goals through education, not regulation - spreading the ethic of water efficiency and promoting the tools to make wise water choices.”

The WaterSense program aims to raise awareness about the importance of water efficiency, ensure the performance of water-efficient products and provide good consumer information. The WaterSense label will be identified on products and services that perform at least 20 percent more efficiently than their less efficient counterparts.

Easily corrected household water leaks frequently rob consumers of eight percent of their water bill. At least 30 percent of water used by household irrigation systems is lost through wind evaporation and improper design, installation or maintenance. The average household adopting water efficient products and practices can save 30,000 gallons per year -- enough to supply a year of drinking water for 150 of their neighbors.

Manufacturers can certify their products meet EPA criteria for water efficiency and performance by following testing protocols specific to each product category. In addition, products will be independently tested to ensure EPA specifications are met. These products will be available to families and businesses early next year.

Information about the WaterSense water efficiency program: http://www.epa.gov/watersense.

New Guide Discusses Point of Use Treatment

EPA has released a new guidance document, “Point-of-Use or Point-of-Entry Treatment Options for Small Drinking Water Systems,” which provides operators and water officials with information about treatment devices that can be installed at a consumer’s tap (Point of Use) or on the water line to a consumer’s home or building (Point of Entry).

Such options can be an alternative to installing expensive community-wide treatment systems.

The guidance describes pertinent requirements of the Safe Drinking Water Act and current Federal regulations. It also contains a summary of individual state requirements and a collection of case studies that illustrate how small systems have implemented these treatment options in the past.

Point-of-use devices, such as reverse-osmosis filters, are usually installed under a kitchen sink and can comply with drinking water standards for such contaminants as arsenic, lead, and radium. Point-of-entry devices are installed outside the home or business and can treat an even wider variety of contaminants.

Depending on local conditions, the devices may reduce costs by more than 50 percent when compared with a community treatment system.

Owners and operators of small drinking water systems will find the guidance useful during the planning stage, including pilot testing, public education, and operation. Maintenance and other implementation issues are also covered.

Read the guidance: http://epa.gov/safewater/smallsys/ssinfo.htm#two.

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