EPA to Increase Oversight of State Drinking Water Programs

  • News
  • by BPC Staff
  • on March 2, 2016


EPA to Increase Oversight of State Drinking Water Programs

By Rachel Leven | March 1, 2016 6:20PM ET

EPA on Lead and Copper Rule

Key Development: The Environmental Protection Agency has announced it will increase its oversight of state drinking water programs.

What’s Next: Federal officials will meet and work with each state program to improve implementation of the EPA’s existing lead and copper rule.

March 1 (BNA) — The Environmental Protection Agency announced it will increase its oversight of state drinking water programs in light of the crisis in Flint, Mich., and similar instances in other cities.

Federal officials will meet and work with each state program to improve their implementation of the EPA’s existing rule aimed at controlling lead and copper in drinking water, Joel Beauvais, EPA deputy assistant administrator for water, said in a Feb. 29 letter to governors and state agencies. Proposed changes to the lead and copper rule, last revised in 2007, will be released in 2017, he said. The rule had been expected in 2016.

“We must work together to address the broad set of challenges and opportunities we face—including in the areas of infrastructure finance and investment, science technology, legacy and emerging contaminants, regulatory oversight, risk assessment and public engagement and education,” Gina McCarthy, EPA administrator, said in another Feb. 29 letter. “I ask that you encourage your state agency to give this effort the highest priority.”

This action was prompted by drinking water crises in Flint and other cities that have garnered significant public concern and attention in Washington. In Flint, lead leached into the city’s water from corroded pipes after the city switched its water source from the Detroit water system to the Flint River without adding corrosion controls, as required by the Safe Drinking Water Act, leaving more than 8,000 children at risk of exposure to high lead levels in their drinking water.

McCarthy also urged state officials to improve transparency on drinking water through measures such as placing state test methods and results on a public website.

While the agency’s actions are in response to problems with lead in drinking water, Beauvais said the toxic metal is far from the only contaminant of concern. The agency would work with states to identify ways to improve drinking water safety overall, including ensuring necessary investments are made for oversight, McCarthy said.

The letters from Beauvais and McCarthy were accompanied by a technical memo recommending how to best meet sampling requirements under the current lead rule.

Flint Legislation

On Capitol Hill, Congress continues to offer new legislative solutions related to the drinking water crisis in Flint and similar incidents.

Reps. Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.) and Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.) introduced the AQUA Act (H.R. 4653) Feb. 29 to reauthorize the drinking water state revolving fund for five years—from fiscal years 2017 to 2021. The bill would require the EPA administrator to assess the risks of drought to drinking water; to create a drinking water resiliency and sustainability grant program for public water systems; and to establish a grant program for removing lead pipelines from public water systems.

The resiliency grant program would receive $50 million annually. The lead lines program would receive $100 million annually, with up to $10 million allocated for only low-income homeowners.

To contact the reporter on this story: Rachel Leven in Washington at rleven@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Larry Pearl at lpearl@bna.com

For More Information

The Feb. 29 letters from EPA officials are available at http://src.bna.com/cXJ.

The Feb. 29 technical memo is available at http://src.bna.com/cXK.

The AQUA Act is available at http://src.bna.com/cZE.

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