Millions of people across the country drink water that passes through lead pipes, putting countless communities at risk of lead contamination along the way. We need tougher rules to keep lead out of our drinking water and until June 30 the Environmental Protection Agency is asking for community input on the best way to do just that.
Lead is especially dangerous for children, infants, and fetuses. Even in small amounts, it can cause irreversible brain damage, learning disabilities, and impaired hearing. In adults, it can cause cardiovascular disease and decreased kidney function. There is no safe level of lead exposure for anyone. Most of the lead found in drinking water comes from lead service lines, which naturally corrode when water flows through them. This corrosion causes toxic lead to leach into our faucet water.
There are laws on the books designed to protect us from lead and other harmful contaminants in our drinking water. In the case of lead, the most important regulation is called the Lead and Copper Rule (LCR), which the EPA administers nationwide. The explicit goal of the LCR is to significantly minimize levels of lead at the tap, but it has been 30 years and millions are still exposed to lead from their faucets.
As it stands, the Lead and Copper Rule doesn’t do nearly enough to protect the public from the dangers of lead contamination. In fact, the previous administration released flawed revisions to the LCR that weakened the rule, such as slowing down the replacement of lead service lines, rather than speeding them up. Earthjustice challenged the EPA’s revised rule in court and now the agency is looking for public input on how to increase protections.
The water infrastructure in many places is decades old and in desperate need of safe, lead-free pipes and fixtures. Many of these towns disproportionately affected by corroding pipes are communities of color, further underscoring environmental injustices Black and Brown communities face daily.
It’s time the country gets serious about lead in drinking water once and for all. We won’t settle for anything less than strong rules to protect our nation’s water. Urge the EPA to be bold and put out a rule that expedites the removal of lead service lines across the country and takes other meaningful steps to prevent lead poisoning from drinking water.