Lead and Copper Rule: Protecting Communities from Lead in Drinking Water

Even in small amounts, lead can cause irreversible brain damage in children, learning disabilities, and impaired hearing. There is no safe level of lead exposure for children. Researchers estimate lead pipes serve as many as 22 million people.

Case Overview

The Lead and Copper rule, or LCR, regulates the control and monitoring of lead in drinking water. Revisions to the rule, finalized by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 2021, dramatically slow down the rate at which lead pipes are required to be replaced. The new rule also allows small public water systems required to replace lead service lines to avoid replacing them altogether, even if those systems continually exceed the lead action level.

Most of the lead found in drinking water comes from lead service lines, according to the EPA. Lead service lines naturally corrode when water flows through them.

EPA estimates there are as many as 10 million lead service lines in the country, and researchers estimate lead pipes serve as many as 22 million people. Communities of color are disproportionately affected. A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 11.2% of African-American children and 4% of Mexican-American children are poisoned by lead.

"Dropping" by Ceyhun (Jay) Isik/https://flic.kr/p/cFMbPE
Children in Flint, Michigan, have been poisoned by lead in the city's tap water. (Ceyhun (Jay) Isik/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Case Updates

Cover of the report, "NYC Lead in Drinking Water-- Replacement Action Now!"
July 18, 2023 Press Release

Report: An Estimated One in Five New Yorkers May Be Drinking Water from Lead Service Lines

Staggering borough and neighborhood lead line data show urgency to act

January 27, 2023 Press Release

Earthjustice Applauds Formation of White House and EPA Lead Service Line Replacement Partnership

As many as 22 million people drink water from lead

December 9, 2022 Press Release

EPA to Reconsider Stronger Rules for Lead in Drinking Water

Agency asks court to allow revisions and new rulemaking for the Lead and Copper Rule