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Get lead out of our drinking water

Delivery to EPA Administrator Michael Regan

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What’s At Stake

Millions of people across the country drink water that passes through lead pipes, putting countless communities at risk of lead contamination along the way. Tell the Environmental Protection Agency to keep lead out of our drinking water.

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, decreased kidney function, and miscarriage. There is no safe level of lead exposure for anyone. And yet, while the Congress banned the installation of lead pipes in 1986, water to tens of millions of people is still delivered through them.

Lead service lines 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 the agency is currently reviewing input provided by activists like you during a recent comment period.

The water infrastructure in many communities is decades old and in desperate need of safe, lead-free pipes and fixtures. Many of these towns disproportionately affected by contaminated water 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 at no cost to consumers and takes other meaningful steps to prevent lead poisoning from drinking water.

"Dropping" by Ceyhun (Jay) Isik/
Ceyhun (Jay) Isik/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Children in Flint, Michigan, have been poisoned by lead in the city's tap water.

Your Actions Matter

Your messages make a difference, even if we have leaders who don't want to listen. Here's why.

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You level the playing field.

Elected officials pay attention when they see that we are paying attention.

They may be hearing from industry lobbyists left and right, but hearing the stories of their constituents — that’s your power.

Our legislators serve at the pleasure of the people who gave them their job — you. When you contact your elected official, you’re putting a face and a name on an issue. Whether or not you voted for them, they work for you, for the duration of their term.

Make sure your elected officials know whose community and whose values they represent. (Find your local, state, and federal elected officials.)

Your action is with us in court.

If a federal agency finalizes a harmful action, the record of public comments provides a basis for bringing them into court.

Throughout each of the public comment periods we alert you to, Earthjustice’s attorneys are researching and writing in-depth, technical comments to submit — detailing how the regulation could and should be stronger to protect the environment, our communities, and our planet.

We need you to join us — your specific experiences, knowledge, and voice are crucial to add to the Administrative Record through the comment periods.

Lawsuits we file that challenge weak or harmful federal regulations rely on what was submitted during the comment period. The court can only look at documents that are in the Administrative Record — including the public comments — to decide if the agency did something improper.

Your actions aid our litigation. Taking action and submitting comments during a comment period is substantively important.

It’s the law.

Federal agencies must pause what they’re doing and ask for — and consider — your comment.

Many of us may have never heard of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), but laws like these require our government to ask the public to weigh in before agencies adopt or change regulations.

Regulations essentially describe how federal agencies will carry out laws — including decisions that could undermine science, or weaken safeguards on public health.

Public comments are collected at various points throughout the federal government’s rulemaking process, including when a regulation is proposed and finalized. (Learn more about the rulemaking process.) These comments become part of the official, legal public record — the “Administrative Record.”

When the public responds with a huge outpouring of support for environmental protections, these individual messages collectively undercut politicians' attempts to claim otherwise.

What this means is each of us can take a role in shaping the rules our government creates — and ensuring those rules are fair and effective.