June 7, 1991: Lead Copper Rule Published

June 7, 1991:In 1991, EPA published the Lead and Copper Rule to minimize lead and copper in drinking water. The rule replaced the previous standard of 50 ppb, measured at the entry point to the distribution system. The rule established a maximum contaminant level goal (MCLG) of zero for lead in drinking water and a treatment technique to reduce corrosion within the distribution system….

Lead and copper enter drinking water primarily through plumbing materials. Exposure to lead and copper may cause health problems ranging from stomach distress to brain damage. On June 7, 1991, EPA published a regulation to control lead and copper in drinking water. This regulation is known as the Lead and Copper Rule (also referred to as the LCR or 1991 Rule).

The treatment technique for the rule requires systems to monitor drinking water at customer taps. If lead concentrations exceed an action level of 15 ppb or copper concentrations exceed an action level of 1.3 ppm in more than 10% of customer taps sampled, the system must undertake a number of additional actions to control corrosion. If the action level for lead is exceeded, the system must also inform the public about steps they should take to protect their health and may have to replace lead service lines under their control.”

Commentary: This short entry hardly seems worthy of a regulation and a water quality problem that has captured the imagination of politicians, citizens and the media. The Flint Crisis crystalizes a few important issues in this complicated regulation, which was not applied properly in Flint, MI, after a change in water source on April 25, 2014. For an in depth exploration of the issues and problems of the Flint Crisis, consult the July 2016 issue of the Journal American Water Works Association.

The front of the Flint Water Plant is seen in Flint, Michigan January 13, 2016. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook

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