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Meng Calls for Improved Data of Lead Water Lines

Jul 3, 2019
Press Release
Additional information would go a long way toward replacing water lines made from lead; Congresswoman leads New York City Congressmembers in letter to head of EPA
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-NY), joined by members of New York City’s Congressional delegation, sent a letter to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler encouraging his agency to require all water systems to collect, maintain, and publish data on water lines made out of lead, which are known as Lead Service Lines (LSLs).
Drinking water from LSLs can pose health hazards as lead leaches into the water when lines age. The effects on children are especially severe, potentially causing irreversible neurological and behavioral damages such as reduced IQ and shorter attention spans, according to the World Health Organization. In order to replace all LSLs in the United States, data on where such lines exist must be available; currently, this data does not exist.
That is why states and municipalities, such as New York City, have implemented plans to ensure the safety of drinking water including the NYC Parks Department testing outdoor drinking fountains for lead and remedying problems that are found.
While some states and municipalities have developed plans and guidelines to address LSLs, there is a lack of reliable national data to estimate the cost of replacing LSLs. An EPA requirement for data collection would allow better data information to be used in initiatives to replace LSLs.
“Safe and clean drinking water is a basic human right,” said Meng. “We cannot remain ignorant to the lead pipes across the nation that adversely affect the health of us and our children. This data collection will be critical for Congress and the EPA to eliminate these health hazards from our country.”
Meng called for the EPA to require the additional data when the Lead and Copper Rule is updated in 2020. The rule seeks to decrease the amount of lead and copper in public drinking water.
A copy of Meng’s letter to Wheeler can be found here and the text is below.
The Honorable Andrew Wheeler
Environmental Protection Agency
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20460
Dear Administrator Wheeler,
We write to encourage you to ensure that the Lead and Copper Rule (LCR)—which is scheduled to be updated and released in early 2020—require water systems to collect, maintain, and publish data about lead service lines (LSLs). While EPA has agreed with a previous Government Accountability Office recommendation that it require such information, that recommendation has not been implemented. Accurate LSL inventories will help communities, businesses, and local, state, and federal officials better understand where LSLs exist and what resources may be required to replace them.
As you may know, the total number of LSLs is unknown because the LCR does not require all water systems to collect or maintain such data or report it to EPA. While some estimates exist about the total number of LSLs in the United States, varying approaches to data collection have yielded different estimates making the data unreliable. Imprecise data will also affect long-term estimates of how much funds will be required to replace all LSLs.
This serious issue must be addressed if we are to eliminate LSLs and ensure all Americans have access to clean and safe drinking water. Many states are developing their own guidelines and policies to address LSLs and help communities replace them. While some states have adopted laws that require water systems to collect, maintain, and publish inventories of their LSLs, other states have adopted voluntary approaches, and still others have taken little or no action – this variability and inconsistency in data collection makes it more difficult to locate and eliminate lead pipes. An updated LCR that requires water systems to collect, maintain, and publish data about LSLs will enable Congress and the EPA to ensure adequate steps are taken to eliminate lead pipes.
As EPA continues its efforts to promote and advance safe drinking water across the nation, please do not hesitate to let Congress know how it can support this goal. Our offices stand ready to support EPA’s fight in this endeavor.