EPA Calls for Eliminating Lead Water Pipes in 10 Years

The mandate doesn’t include additional funding, prompting backlash from utility companies.

2 minute read

December 5, 2023, 8:00 AM PST

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

Close-up of exposed pipe in trench with blurred utility workers and yellow truck in background.

evgavrilov / Adobe Stock

A proposed rule from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would require water utilities to identify and remove pipes with any level of lead over ten years, reports Kery Murakami for Route Fifty.

While the rule would not add new funding, “The 2021 Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act did include $15 billion to remove lead pipes, as well as $11.7 billion in Drinking Water State Revolving Funds that can also be used for that purpose.” The industry estimates removing all lead pipes around the country could cost as much as $47 billion, saying they may be forced to raise rates for customers.

“But getting less notice is that agencies with the most lead pipes will get a little more time to meet the requirement,” Murakami adds. “Specifically, the agency said it would give utilities that have to replace more than 10,000 service lines a year ‘as many years as necessary’ to replace all the lead pipes “as quickly as feasible.’” The use of lead pipes for drinking water has been outlawed since 1986.

The proposal would also require cities to pass laws requiring private property owners to replace their own lead pipes or give the local utility access to do so. “The EPA argued that the cost of removing virtually all of the nation’s lead pipes is worth the price because of the harm they are causing to not only children but adults, too.”

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