Regulatory Update: What Will a New EPA Administration Prioritize for the Water Sector?

Aug. 13, 2021

What will a new administration at EPA prioritize for the water sector?

About the author:

Kathleen Burbidge is global regulatory and government affairs manager for the Water Quality Association. Burbidge can be reached at [email protected].

Along with a change in White House Administrations and a new congressional session in 2021, there will be a new federal U.S. EPA administrator leading the agency. EPA promulgates regulations impacting the drinking water treatment and filtration industry, such as the Safe Drinking Water Act, Lead and Copper Rule and National Primary Drinking Water Regulations. President Joe Biden announced he will nominate Michael S. Regan, North Carolina’s current Secretary of Environmental Quality, to lead the EPA. Reporting indicates that in the upcoming months and years the EPA will be finalizing the Lead and Copper Rule revisions; reviewing per- and polyfluoroalkyl substance (PFAS) chemicals for potential regulatory action; and prioritizing initiatives to address disadvantaged communities and climate change.

Potential for PFAS MCLs

Ahead of the change in administrations in 2020, PFOA and PFOS were included in an EPA proposal for regulatory determination and the EPA’s PFAS Action Plan called out the use of in-home point-of-use (POU) and point-of-entry (POE) water filters if residents find PFAS in their drinking water. To continue along the path to establish maximum contaminant levels for PFOA and PFOS in drinking water, on Jan. 14th 2021, the EPA issued an advance notice of proposed rule making to collect public comment and data, which will assist the agency’s evaluation of these specific PFAS compounds. 

When assessing other unregulated contaminants, Regan will be able to review data from the Fourth Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule (UCMR 4). The UCMR requires monitoring and data reports to the federal EPA by public water systems on 30 unregulated contaminants selected by the agency. The UCMR 4 monitoring cycle was between 2018 and 2020, which means there is new nationwide information the agency can consider when looking at regulatory determination of new contaminants to be added to the National Primary Drinking Water Regulations under the Safe Drinking Water Act. The reported data from the UCMR 4 is also publicly available and can be accessed on the EPA Fourth Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule webpage. 

Lead & Copper Rule Revisions

At the end of last year, EPA presented its final version of the Lead and Copper Rule revisions. It was published in the federal register Jan. 15, 2021. However, the effective date for the new rule was listed as March 16, 2021. Because it was not effective prior to Jan. 20th, the rule was caught up in a freeze on new regulations by the Biden Administration to allow the new administration time to take another look at the revisions. During the past public comment period, there was been pushback on the lead action level remaining at 15 parts per billion. Continued inclusion of provisions in the revised rule impacting the drinking water treatment and filtration industry are allowing community water systems serving less than or equal to 10,000 people, and all non-transient non-community water systems to elect to maintain POU devices certified to remove lead in place of corrosion control treatment. Also, the provision for systems to provide a certified pitcher filter to remove lead for up to three months when there is potential line disturbance after a lead service line replacement, partial lead service line replacement, or replacement of the water meter or gooseneck, pigtail or connector. 

EPA Administrator Nominee Michael S. Regan’s background includes previous work at the federal EPA. During his time at the agency, he managed a national program for air pollution issues. While working for the state of North Carolina, Regan led negotiations for the Cape Fear River cleanup from PFAS contamination. Regan also established North Carolina’s Environmental Justice and Equity Advisory Board with the purpose of helping low-income and minority communities address disproportionate exposure to harmful pollutants. It is likely Regan will move for national leadership on PFAS and continue to assist disadvantaged communities.

*Editor’s Note: The above regulatory update was submitted to WQP Jan. 21, 2021. WQP recognizes the federal regulatory landscape is evolving.

About the Author

Kathleen Burbidge

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