To help ensure the safety and cleanliness of drinking water, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has implemented significant revisions to the Lead and Copper Rule (LCR), which requires community water systems (CWA) to develop inventories of lead service lines (LSL) and create a plan for their replacement. The compliance deadline for this measure is October 16, 2024.
Established in 1991 as part of the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA), EPA’s primary objective with the LCR is to protect public health and reduce exposure to lead in drinking water.
So, what do you need to know, and what steps do you need to take to protect your community from lead exposure and meet the EPAs goal of complete lead service line removal? This article provides essential details, highlights available funding resources, and outlines the steps to follow to help ensure the safety of your residents by eliminating all lead service lines and providing clean and healthy drinking water for all.
Timeline of EPA Lead and Copper Rules:
States may have stricter drinking water regulations than the EPA. Check your state for more information.
Lead service line inventory requirements
The LCRR specifies requirements of the initial inventory to include:
Material classification. Each service line, including portions with split ownership, must be classified as lead, galvanized requiring replacement (GRR), non-lead, or lead status unknown.
All service lines and ownership. The inventory shall include both the system- and customer-owned portions of all service lines within the distribution system.
Information to identify material. Service line materials shall be classified using previous materials evaluations, construction and plumbing codes/records, water system records, distribution system inspections and records, information obtained through normal operations, and state-specified information.
Initial inventory deadline for submission. Submit an initial inventory or demonstrate the absence of lead service lines (LSLs) by October 16, 2024.
Updates to primacy agency. Inventories must be submitted to primacy agencies annually or triennially based on lead tap sampling frequency, but not more frequently than annually. Water systems that have demonstrated the absence of LSLs by October 16, 2024, are not required to provide an update. However, if these systems subsequently find any LSL or GRR service line, they have 30 days to notify the state and prepare an updated inventory on a schedule established by the state.
Public accessibility. Inventories shall be made publicly available and include a locational identifier for LSLs and GRR service lines. Water systems serving more than 50,000 people must provide inventories online.
Consumer confidence report (CWSs only). CWSs must inform the public how to access the service line inventory information through their consumer confidence report.
Service line consumer notification. Notification must be provided to individuals served by the water system at the service connection with an LSL, GRR, or lead status unknown service line. For water systems serving communities with many non-English speaking consumers, as determined by the state, public education materials must be in appropriate languages or contain a telephone number or address where they may contact the water system to obtain a translated copy of the materials or to request assistance.
Notification must be provided within 30 days after completion of initial inventory and repeated annually until only non-lead lines remain. Water systems must also provide this notice for new customers during service initiation. Notice must include a statement about service line material, lead health effects, and steps to minimize lead exposure in drinking water. If the service line is:
- Confirmed LSL: notification must include opportunities to replace the LSL, any available financing programs, and a statement that says the system must replace its portion if property owners notify the system that they are replacing their portion.
- GRR: notification must also include opportunities for service line replacement.
- Lead status unknown: notification must also include opportunities to verify the material of the service line.
Notification delivery must be by mail or by another method approved by the state. The water system will need to report that the notification was delivered and provide a copy of the notification and information materials to their states annually by July 1 for the previous calendar year.
Building and creating your lead service line inventory
Building an LCRR-required service line inventory is a systematic process that SEH can simplify for you. Below are five steps to build and create your inventory.
1. Gather all your data
- Include both utility and privately owned sides of the service line.
- Collect existing records, maps, and documentation related to the water distribution system, such as as-built drawings, maintenance cards, engineering reports, and construction records.
- Review historical records to determine the age of the water distribution system and any significant upgrades or replacements conducted over the years.
- Conduct field surveys to visually identify service line material and document the types of pipes visible, such as those visible where the water service enters the home or inside meter pits. Document service line materials during maintenance activities such as meter replacements.
- Collaborate with property owners by conducting surveys, questionnaires, or interviews to gather information about their service lines including age, material, and location.
2. Geographic Information System (GIS)
- If available, use GIS to map and track the locations of service lines.
- Incorporate data from field surveys, property owner information, and existing records into the GIS system to create a comprehensive inventory.
3. Record and document
- Create a detailed inventory database or spreadsheet to record all the relevant information about each service line, including location, material, age, and other pertinent data.
- Ensure the information is organized and easily accessible for future reference.
- Regularly update the service line inventory with new information or when changes occur in the water distribution system.
- Implement a maintenance plan to periodically review and validate the inventory.
- Analyze the inventory data to assess the extent of LSLs and prioritize areas for replacement.
4. Inform the public
- Explain the LSL inventory mandate to your community and provide information on its significance.
- Meet with residents to provide information, evaluate situations, and acquire required documentation.
5. Reports due by October 16, 2024
- Prepare reports or summaries outlining the findings of the service line inventory, including the number and percentage of LSLs and their classification – lead, galvanized requiring replacement, non-lead, or lead status unknown.
- If your system does not have LSLs, compile proof with an inventory of non-lead materials or a written statement of verification.
- Submit the reports to the appropriate regulatory agencies as required by the LCRR by October 16, 2024.
- Provide necessary customer notifications notifying them of their service line material.
Lead service line replacement plan
- All public water systems that serve more than 10,000 persons are required to implement the replacement plans by October 16, 2024, if it exceeds either the 10 ppb trigger level or the 15 ppb action level.
- Water systems that serve more than 10,000 persons and are above the trigger level but below the action level must conduct goal-based replacement. The state must approve the goal-based replacement rate.
- Water systems that serve more than 10,000 persons and are above the action level must conduct mandatory replacement at a rate not less than 3%. The rate must be approved by the state.
- Non-transient and community water systems serving less than 10,000 persons for which the state has approved or designated lead service line replacement as an option following an exceedance must follow all steps to conduct the replacement and provide customer notification.
To meet the requirements of the LCRR, the plan must address the following elements:
- Strategy for determining the composition of lead status unknown service lines in the inventory.
- Procedure to replace all lead service lines.
- Communication strategy to inform customers before a full or partial lead service line replacement.
- Water systems serving more than 10,000 persons and are above the trigger level (10 ppb), but below the action level (15 ppb) must conduct goal-based replacement approved by the state.
- Flushing procedure for customers to flush their service lines and premise plumbing of particulate lead after replacing a service line.
- Prioritize based on factors including, but not limited to, the targeting of known lead service lines, lead service line replacement for disadvantaged consumers, and populations most sensitive to the effects of lead.
- Develop a funding strategy that considers ways to accommodate customers who cannot pay to replace the portion they own.
It is important to note that only full lead service line replacements count toward any required replacement rate. Partial service line replacements can cause increased lead at customer taps and should be avoided.
Funding and tools for lead service replacements
Removing LSLs from drinking water systems can be costly for communities or water utilities. Funding options are available at the federal and state levels. Here are some sources to consider.
- Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) are administered through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)
- Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) includes grant funding for reducing lead in drinking water in disadvantaged communities under the Reducing Lead in Drinking Water Grant Program.
- Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) Program provides long-term, low-cost supplemental loans for regional and nationally significant projects.
- U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development Water and Waste Disposal Loan and Grant Program provides rural communities with populations under 10,000 financing support.
Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF), established by the EPA, has provided states with funding since it originated. The DWRF offers below-market rate loans for public water system improvements and is a common funding source for drinking water projects.
SEH has supported countless communities in the process of applying for, securing, and administering funds through the DWRF program. Learn more about our funding services and connect with a funding expert.
- EPA’s document, Guidance for Developing and Maintaining a Service Line Inventory, can be used to comply with the requirements under the LCRR that are in effect at the time of document publication, August 2022.
- The LSLR Collaborative released a new toolkit for utilities, public health officials, and local leaders to tackle lead pipes in their communities. The online toolkit includes a roadmap for getting started; suggested practices to identify and remove lead service lines in a safe, equitable and cost-effective manner; policies that federal and state leaders could adopt to support local efforts; and links to additional resources that may be helpful when developing local programs.
- EPA's very useful publication for answering questions regarding other funding sources available for various types of projects, Funding and Technical Resources for Lead Service Line Replacement in Small and Disadvantaged Communities.
About the Experts
Kevin Young, PE (MN, VA), has experience in different positions directly related to water treatment. He has served as a water treatment plant operator, engineer, and supervisor at a 10 mgd lime softening facility. His operations experience includes ozone disinfection, biological filtration, chlorination, and high service pumping. He is passionate about the environment and our responsibility to provide clean water to everyone.
Simon McCormack, PE (MN), has in-depth knowledge of water system engineering from design to operation. He is well-informed about the SDWA, Minnesota Plumbing Code, Minnesota Well Code, and procedures for enforcing these standards. In addition to engineering design and operation, Simon is well-versed in hydraulic modeling and integrating modeling software with GIS systems.