Complying with the EPA mandate of “get the lead out”

EPA Takes Essential Step Toward Replacing Lead Water Pipes Poisoning  Communities


In order to meet the Biden Administration’s EPA proposal to remove lead pipes across the U.S., an estimated 48,000 such pipes would have to be eliminated in Oklahoma, 330,000 in Missouri, 160,000 in Kansas and 270,000 in Texas.

Those figures are based on a 2021 Natural Resources Defense Council survey.

The Environmental Protection Agency issued its proposed rule  saying utilities nationwide would have lead pipes out of the ground within 10 years. Lead pipes have been banned in the U.S.  since 1986 but utilities have not been required to remove them from service.

The science is clear, according to the EPA: there is no safe level of lead exposure. In children, it can severely harm mental and physical development—slowing down learning and damaging the brain. In adults, lead can cause increased blood pressure, heart disease, decreased kidney function, and cancer.

Per a conversation a few years ago with an Oklahoma City official, there are 100-year old pipes still in use in the city. How many might be lead pipes is the question.

“Lead in drinking water is a generational public health issue, and EPA’s proposal will accelerate progress towards President Biden’s goal of replacing every lead pipe across America once and for all,” EPA administrator Michael Regan said in a news release.

Based on the 2021 survey by the NRDC, Oklahoma had a population of 3,959,353 with 48,000 lead service lines which figured to be 1,212 lead service lines per 100,000 people in the state.

The  EPA’s estimate of the number of lead pipelines in Kansas is more than 54,000 compared to the NRDC’s belief of more than 160,000. In Missouri, the EPA believes there are more than 202,000 lead lines but the estimate by the NRDC is at more than 330,000.

“EPA’s proposed Lead and Copper rule is grounded in the best available science and successful practices utilized by drinking water systems to protect children and adults from lead in drinking water,” said EPA Assistant Administrator for Water Radhika Fox. Cities like Newark, NJ, Benton Harbor, MI, and Green Bay, WI have all successfully gotten the lead out of their water systems. Our proposed rule applies the lessons learned to scale these successes to every corner of the country,”

Two years ago, the EPA announced a Revised Lead and Copper Rule to reduce lead in drinking water and it had a compliance date of Oct. 16, 2024. The rule’s intent was to identify all lead service lines/pipes in communities across the nation.

EPA has directed states and public water systems to prioritize developing lead service line inventories (LSLI). Each public water system must submit its LSLI to DEQ by October 16, 2024. The date for complying with the LSLI will not change with the LCRI updates.

Oklahoma’s Department of Environmental Quality started training sessions in cities across the state last summer. They were held in August, October and November while two remaining sessions, one in Pryor and another in Weatherford will be held this month. A final training session will be held in January in Okmulgee.

In a note to water system operators across the state last July, the DEQ explained that “All public water supplies in Oklahoma which are subject to the Lead and Copper Rule must develop and submit their initial LSLI (Lead Service Line Inventory) to DEQ by October, 6 2024.”

The memo explained that the inventory must include all service lines connected to the public water distribution system regardless of wheether the service line is owned by the system, customer or partly by both. However, the DEQ became in the growing concern about lead pipes back in 2016.

Working with the Oklahoma Department of Health, the DEQ over the years has offered testing of suspected lead lines.

Oklahoma officials have also gone before Congress to focus concern on what’s in our drinking water. In July 2020, Shellie R. Chard, President of the Association of State Drinking Water Administrators and also the Water Quality Division Director at the DEQ testified before a subcommittee of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. The topic of discussion was “There’s Something in the Water: Reforming Our Nation’s Drinking Water Standards.”