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Navigating the Revised Lead & Copper Rule Requirements

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is working to remove lead from drinking water. The deadline for its Lead and Copper Rule Improvements (LCRI) is October 16, 2024. Our team assists clients in complying with the LCRI initiative by performing lead service line inventories and creating new sampling plans.

As the EPA’s inventory deadline approaches, it’s crucial to consider the proposed action items ahead. Listen as Lindsay Beaman, P.E., and Toni Tabbert, P.E., share insights into successful strategies for communities, potential funding opportunities, and more.

Podcast Agenda

  • Issues behind Lead & Copper (01:19)
  • October 2024 Inventory Deadline (4:19)
  • Known Inventory Challenges (6:41)
  • Available Funding Options (7:40)
  • How Communities Are Tackling Inventory & Replacement Needs (10:08)
  • What Comes Next for Lead & Copper Regulations? (16:45)
Lindsay Beaman Contact Box White Circle Headshot

Lindsay Beaman, P.E.

Cedar Rapids Business Unit Leader

Lindsay Beaman, P.E.

Cedar Rapids Business Unit Leader

Water System Analysis & Planning, Design & Construction, Wastewater Treatment Design, Municipal Engineering

Toni Tabbert headshot

Toni Tabbert, P.E.

Civil Engineer

Toni Tabbert, P.E.

Civil Engineer

Iowa SRF Funding, Water Distribution, Comprehensive Planning

Regulatory Updates for the Lead & Copper Rule

Lindsay Beaman (00:16):

Hi everyone, it’s Lindsay Beaman with Snyder and Associates, and with me here today is Toni Tabbert. We’re water environment professionals with Snyder and Associates. We want to take a little journey to talk about Lead and Copper Rules and the current regulations because, as we all know, this year is the big year that the inventories are due. What that means is with the EPA’s Lead and Copper Rules that were established and have been updated systematically over several years, there is an inventory required this October 2024. That is a requirement of every city in every state in the US. In Iowa, in particular, our Iowa DNR is managing this inventory regulation. And we want to talk a little bit about what is required in the inventory and some of the implications that are occurring with some of our clients.

So, the inventory, this is a who, what, when, where, how to break it down into the basic rules of what’s going on here. Every community water system, every non-transit, non-community water system, must complete this.

Toni, can you talk to me a little bit about what the issue is behind lead and copper?

Issues behind Lead & Copper

Toni Tabbert (01:19):

Basically, there are a lot of health risks when individuals are exposed to lead. And lead gets into our drinking water through corrosion of the existing pipes. We have a lot of older communities and a lot of older pipes that consist of lead. And it’s not just the lead pipe. It can also be the solder used in the piping that can also contain lead and with that erodes, it releases lead into the drinking water, which eventually gets into our system. And that is the reason lead is an issue with drinking water.

There are a lot of health risks that are posed by exposure to lead. The most vulnerable are young children, infants, and fetuses because even low amounts can cause problems with them. Some of the issues they’ve seen in young children are behavior and learning problems, lower IQ, hyperactivity, slow growth, hearing problems, and even anemia. Pregnant women are also susceptible to lead. And what I found interesting when going through this, is over time, lead builds up into our bodies and is sorted with calcium in our bones. So when women become pregnant, as the fetus or the baby grows, it uses calcium in the woman’s body, but it also absorbs the lead that may be stored in the bones of that female. And so that is how the lead gets into the baby and what could cause reduced growth and premature births. And just normal adults, lead can cause issues with cardiovascular effects, increased blood pressure, hypertension, decreased kidney function, and reproductive problems in both men and women. And those are kind of the main reasons why it’s important to know what you have in your water as far as the lead levels and why it’s important to reduce those levels.

Lindsay Beaman (02:59):

Thanks, Toni. It’s really good to understand that lead and, honestly, any chemicals in too heavy of a quantity that’s regulated by our federal agencies. It’s really important to know why they’re doing that. And it’s because it’s probably unhealthy for us. And that’s why these regulations come into place. And we know from historical events throughout across the country that we aren’t completely free and clear of lead pipe use in public and private water infrastructure, which is why this effort is going forth to try to really identify any remaining pipes that are in existence. These inventories are really an attempt to push communities to understand the breadth of their issues and not just to know if they have lead and copper pipes but really to identify everything that they’re doing in their water supply because you really need to be able to secure that water all the way from treatment to tap.

Copper, we always ask this question, We say lead and copper, lead and copper, lead and copper. Is copper bad? Copper’s not especially good for you either, but it’s not something we’re watching as coming out into the drinking water stream and causing impacts. I mean, it’s not good for you. But those rules were combined back in the day so lead and copper have just always stuck together in that conversation of rulemaking. That’s why you hear lead and copper talk about together. But the inventory cares about all materials, but lead is the focus.

October 2024 Lead and Copper Inventory Deadline

Lindsay Beaman (04:19):

So, these inventories must be submitted by October 16th, 2024, and the inventory categories that you have to report are lead, not lead, galvanized, requiring replacement, or unknown.

In talking to the DNR, they have templates in place for this to be done. It could be fairly simple. The basis of what you need to know for the efforts required are paperwork, desktop review, getting your consumers involved where possible, and interviewing people in the community. You will not have to uncover pipes in order to identify all the materials, but any effort to just say you don’t know anything if you put unknown into every single line on an inventory will be a huge red flag. The DNR has indicated that they’re not going to allow that to be the answer. So, the inventory should have some effort extended based on records at city hall with whatever was put in at building permit time. If there are any information from maybe local plumbers, you know, one easy way to identify some lead and copper in existence would be from building ages. We do know that lead was outlawed in the late eighties. So as long as a house is constructed post about 1988, it’s pretty much assumed that lead cannot be in existence there.

Lindsay Beaman (05:33):

There are different ways to identify and to track this with records and the inventory should be supported by the evidence of how that information was made known to help with the accuracy of what that information is. And these are living documents. These are really meant to be created once but updated constantly. Because this isn’t a one-and-done issue, we want to completely eliminate lead from our system.

These inventories are supposed to be publicly available. You don’t have to use addresses. People probably don’t want everyone to know the address of where the lead is or see the address of every home and use it for some sort of spam mail. So you don’t have to use the addresses as in the public database. You can just use identification numbers.

Another step people cannot forget to do is direct notification as you identify lead or galvanized requiring replacement pipes. These are some steps that I think that a lot are going to skip because they’re going to stop at: I submitted a report, and I did my job, and that’s it. So we’ll have to keep an eye open for our clients to not miss the rest of those steps.

And so, I know Toni and I talked about some of the big challenges of actually conducting this inventory because a lot of this information is not known. I mean, Toni, what have you seen for challenges?

Lead and Copper Inventory Challenges

Toni Tabbert (06:41):

Some of the challenges I’ve seen, or some of the questions that have come up, are the ownership of the service line. Where does that ownership change? Who’s ultimately responsible for what portion of that service line? There are cities out there where the regulatory agency or the utility is responsible for the service line up to the curb stop, and then the homeowner is responsible for the curb stop into the private residence. Some communities are from deer water main to the actual home that the homeowner is responsible for. So, one of the big challenges on this, I think, is going to be who pays for it. Is that burden solely on the homeowner? Is it solely on the city? Is it 50-50? And determining that, I think, is going to be a big issue when it comes down to having to replace these service lines.

Lindsay Beaman (07:32):

I think it’s safe to say that the answers are buried, pun intended.

Toni Tabbert (07:37):

I think so. I think so. They’re very well buried.

Available Funding Options

Lindsay Beaman (07:40):

Anyway. No, and I agree with you. The physical access to the information is just going to be costly to identify it because none of these utilities are buried in wide open spaces. This is going to be interesting to identify everything to completion. You know, you talk about the funding challenges and the expense of trying to identify that. I know that there is some funding available as this conversation increases. Obviously, whenever a federal agency encourages a new rule, there’s usually some form of funding to be able to back up how they’re trying to enforce that to help a lot of these communities that can’t afford certain things. I do know that the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, otherwise known as the BIL, that had funding included in it for lead service line replacement projects, specifically in Iowa, the Drinking Water SRF Fund is able to administer that money. I believe there was over 162 million allocated to Iowa alone for lead service line replacement.

Lindsay Beaman (08:38):

And some of that money is forgivable, and you do need to do some sort of a preliminary engineering study or a project plan for lead service line replacement in order to apply for that funding. So, in some ways, getting the inventory done accurately could help unlock a path to paying for a lead service line replacement program. And then, there are some communities in the state where I have noticed by doing some research on what other communities are doing that are offering cost-sharing measures for lead service replacement. I see this as an extremely proactive way to get the public involved. And not only does it give the public a tool for paying for it, but you’re actually getting them proactively thinking about if I would like to capitalize on this measure being made available to me, I need to do something sooner. You know, I need to adopt into this measure early. So it’s really an interesting way to attack that. So I really hope that others can find ways to do that. And I don’t know, perhaps maybe SRF money can be made available to help with some of these cost-sharing programs to help this engagement. So, there are some options out there for this challenge.

Toni Tabbert (09:43):

One thing, Lindsay, I think just to kind of continue on your statement there, talking about the funding, the projects do have to be on the IUP list before you can do the preliminary engineering report or actually be eligible for the funding. Is that correct?

Lindsay Beaman (09:55):

Yes, for SRF funding eligibility, yes. Some sort of a little study or information from a community will have to be made available to indicate their need and then yeah, they’d have to get on the intended use plan to apply for said funding. Correct.

Toni Tabbert (10:07):


Examples of How Communities Are Completing Inventory Documentation

Lindsay Beaman (10:08):

Toni, do you know what some of your clients might already be doing to tackle the inventory issue or other lead replacement needs?

Toni Tabbert (10:14):

I did get a chance to talk to a couple of our clients and some other communities, and the main ones that we work with are under that 10,000 limit. They’re considered a smaller community. One of them mailed out surveys to residents. The ones that were unresponsive, they actually went door to door. That community was under 500 people, so it was fairly easy for them to do. Everybody knows their neighbor, and everybody knows the city guy. So they were able to get a pretty good response out of that on what the service lines were.

Another community I’ve worked with just happened to be doing a new water meter program, and so their staff is actually doing the inventory as they’re installing the new meters. They’re looking at what’s coming into the house, what’s connecting to, and recording that.

So, another community has asked the residents to send them pictures of what their connection is at the meter or inside the house, but that’s just a couple of examples of what communities are doing. Lindsay, what have you seen as far as community involvement with some of your clients?

Lindsay Beaman (11:12):

Yeah, we’ve had clients reach out for different levels of engagement. I’ve had instances where we’ve gone as far as to help incorporate entire addresses into the template from the DNR and go through and help them document from their public records. They were quite literally a stack of papers from city hall that had service line information on it, and try to siphon through that information to figure out connecting addresses to records and to help them with that. And then to kind of go through an inventory, fill out the check boxes for what’s known, what’s not known, etc., and just kind of high-level help them out with getting a database started.

Iowa City has a really cool database. I think they’re maybe doing one of the best programs possible where they’re tracking it on a publicly available GIS system. You can go click on your house, you can see what’s going on, you can see how you’re being identified. They’re also offering a cost-share program for 50% of the replacement of a verified lead service line. So that’s a really good strategic way to get people vested in finding out that answer. I thought that was very nice. And also helps make everybody accountable to solve the problem. I mean, that’s kind of cool. They’re, they’re bringing everybody into the conversation early to get moved on from it. Obviously not everybody has an Iowa City mentality to approaching their consumer’s needs, but it’s kind of an awesome gold standard to look at.

I’ve had other communities that just say, “Hey, we want to engage in the community to help feed the information back to us because the residents are going to be the best source of knowledge for what’s in their homes. What’s something I can give them as a tool?” And we’ve done some public outreach information that shows what the issue is, why it matters to people, what they can do to maybe scratch the pipe or use a magnet to try to identify their service if they could take pictures and report back to city hall or if they’d even like to engage, to have someone further come into their home now that they understand the issue and that there’s people out there willing to help them identify if they have a need in their home.

So those are some things I’ve talked with clients about, and obviously, there are different ways to do it. I think some of the bigger cities have gotten a lot more advanced into the methodology. Certainly, if a community has a GIS program for tracking anything in their utility system, and like you said, when they’re doing a water project and they can go and check some boxes on some additional things that are uncovered, like when they’re doing meter replacements, I mean that would be a massive improvement to an inventory to have that additional piece of information tracked somewhere that physically identifies in the ground where the answers are.

In preparation for this meeting too, we did some searching around our entire client base to see what other states are doing. From what I saw, Missouri seemed to be identical to what Iowa’s doing, and that was basically my summary of that. Nebraska didn’t have a lot that I could find. And when you Google Nebraska lead and copper, some big cities have something out there in the public eye that they’re trying to do. I don’t know if their Department of Energy and Environment is really being forerunners in this or if they’re kind of just letting everybody figured out on their own. Wisconsin did some monitoring site plans in the past, and they did a lot of this stuff where they knew what was going to a lot of their buildings for services. In addition to that, using the BIL money, they hired Jacobs Engineering to provide free support for any municipality to do this, which is pretty amazing. So, I think they’re pretty much tucked away with, they’ve got this covered, and nobody in Wisconsin is probably asking these questions of their engineers. So that’s another gold standard to look to.

Toni Tabbert (14:47):

Sounds like your communities are pretty involved in this program, so that is good.

Lindsay Beaman (14:51):

I do know from working with enough communities; maybe over a few years, there is a level of, you know, being proactively engaged with your citizens and your residents and bringing a project and problem and need forward to them before they have identified it, that there’s a level of trust, maybe, maybe that’s the right word, a level of trust that’s being established from, you know, public entity to consumer where you’re not hiding anything, you’re telling everyone what is needed. They can understand then that you are not missing taking action because it’s their tax dollars that are going to need to be expended to address an issue and that you’re giving them ways to engage that might clear some air there for the entire public engagement piece of the lead and copper issue. I mean, no one wants their citizens to Google lead and copper and find out that they’re on a list of problem cities and then be caught completely off guard and very frustrated, and that level of trust will be gone forever.

Lindsay Beaman (15:47):

I mean, I do know with the inventories, we haven’t talked about them much because I think by now, most everyone should have a good read on what is necessary, but they are required to be publicly available after they’re completed. And that doesn’t mean listing everyone’s address and what their pipes are. But you do have to give a general read to the citizens about how many or what scope of the issue you’re dealing with so that everyone’s aware of what’s happening in their community. But certainly, anyone who is attached to a lead line, they must be notified. That is something they must be promptly notified of that. So, as soon as you find out anything concerning, you need to let the citizens know.

I do want to talk on this too, though, Toni. I know that recently the EPA has released some updated, I don’t know that it’s in rulemaking yet, but they have some updated guidance on what they want to do next because this is a very fluid rule that they want to keep moving forward. They don’t want to just set on the inventories. Do you know what’s going on next with this lead and copper rule?

Next Steps After Completing Lead & Copper Inventory

Toni Tabbert (16:45):

We know that the inventory is due here coming up in October. That’s what everybody is concerned about right now. After the inventories are submitted, the EPA has put some guidance out there as far as what to do next. And in November 2023, as part of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, they proposed the LCRI that is the lead copper and rule improvements, and it went through a public hearing on January 16th. It is not official yet. It is not accepted as federal regulations. I think it is currently open for public comment right now. But basically, it addresses the next steps after the inventory has been submitted, and some of the things that it covers is:

  • achieving a hundred percent lead pipe replacement within the next ten years,
  • locating legacy lead pipes, which basically knowing where lead pipes are critical and to replacing them equably.
  • improved tap sampling
  • lowering the lead action level from 15 micrograms per liter to 10 micrograms per liter.
  • strengthening protections to reduce exposure in our water systems.

Those are just some of the things that the new proposed rule address and we’ll have to see where that one goes.

As part of the LCRI also covers partial replacements. If you are replacing the lead service lines as a lead service line replacement program, both sides have to be replaced, the utility side and the consumer side, or you cannot replace them. So you have to have your customer’s permission. If you’re doing it as a water main replacement project or as an emergency, it says that you can do the partial replacement up to the curb stop, and within 45 days, you have to offer to replace the consumer side. So that’s some of the regulations that this covers as far as partial replacements.

Lindsay Beaman (18:46):

I think it’s pretty clear from what we’ve heard over the last couple of years, at a minimum, that these inventories are happening, and the action afterward is not going to go away. So it’s safe to say that, you know, complete your inventory, put a plan in place, and get ready to actually do some replacement projects, correct?

Toni Tabbert: (19:03):


Lindsay Beaman: (19:04):

Yeah, I mean, it’s 10% every year for the next ten years. That could be a significant amount of projects. And then, for some communities, it might make a lot more sense to do a hundred percent over one year rather than piecemealing it together with potentially several different contractors or oversight with a building inspector, et cetera. I mean, that could be a lot of legwork, and it might just rip the Band-Aid off, right?

Toni Tabbert (19:26):

Yeah, and I think it’s going to depend on the community itself. It’s going to be whatever works best for them. I mean, larger cities may have more funding available to address these issues or address these less service lines where a smaller community, let’s say a community with 30 service lines where most everybody is on a fixed income, stretching it over the next ten years might lessen the burden for them. So they may be, okay, we’re going to do 10% a year for the next ten years, and that’s what’s going to work for us. So it’s going to depend on the community itself and what their capabilities are financially to be able to address these lead service lines.

How Can Snyder & Associates Assist with Lead & Copper Compliance

Lindsay Beaman (19:59):

So what do we know? We know that an excess of lead in your water supply is very, very unhealthy for all of us, especially if anyone consuming it, not good. So, the federal government is trying to help to make sure that that is removed from any public drinking water supply because that is their job. They’re trying to help engage with community partners to get this done by identifying what they can in a timely fashion and to help push for some improvements over a timely period as well so that this doesn’t become a driving problem for a lot of citizens that maybe can’t afford to live elsewhere. But in communities where there might be an abundance of older homes and lead and copper excessively in their pipes, we know that this is going to continue to adapt. The Lead and Copper Rules will continue to be in place until this is addressed. There’s always something in the water that we’re trying to help get out of the water to protect our consumers. And that Snyder and Associates is helping any of our partners that need our help with public outreach, inventory, funding applications, just in general answering questions for the citizens. We’re here to help and Toni and I are very happy to have talked you through this conversation. Toni, do you have any closing words?

Toni Tabbert (21:09):

I think you’ve covered it, Lindsay. I just want to thank everybody for tuning in, and if you guys need anything, feel free to reach out to Lindsay or myself, and we’ll try to continue to update these podcasts as new rules and regulations come out.

Lindsay Beaman (21:23):

Thank you.

Toni Tabbert (21:24):

Thanks, everyone.

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