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FAQs to the December 2021 Lead and Copper Rule Updates

FAQs to the December 2021 Lead and Copper Rule Updates

What is the Lead and Copper Rule?

The Lead and Copper Rule is a regulation for drinking water in the United States. It has been in effect since 1991 and stipulates the effects of lead and copper and the requirements and responsibilities of the various water suppliers and users to ensure that our water is safe. It also determines what steps the government should take to keep the public informed when there is an issue AND what to watch for in your homes and businesses.

Why should I care about the Lead and Copper Rule?

The Lead and Copper Rule determines guidelines for ensuring safe drinking water and is designed to prevent issues like those that happened during the Flint Water Crisis. The Lead and Copper Rule is a regulation defined in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) which outlines the requirements all water suppliers must  follow to make sure that their water is in compliance and clearly establishes the action necessary if the water is not in compliance.

What are the updates to the Lead and Copper Rule from the most recent update?

  1. Using science-based testing protocols to find more sources of lead in drinking water.
  2. Establishing a trigger level to jumpstart mitigation earlier and in more communities.
  3. Driving more and complete lead service line replacements.
  4. For the first time, requiring testing in schools and childcare facilities.
  5. Requiring water systems to identify and make public the locations of lead service lines.
  6. Requiring water systems to actively inform their customers of the dangers posed by lead and copper in their water systems. Including the possibility that situations in their homes or businesses might affect their water quality.

When did these updates take effect?

The Lead Copper Rule was updated December 16, 2021.

How often are these rules updated?

Updates to the rules are made periodically, but the December 2021 update is the most extensive since the rule was put into effect in 1991. Previously, the most recent update was 2007.

Why are updates made?

The LCR is updated to improve public health protection while at the same time balancing effective implementation. Although updates were already under consideration, recent events (like the Flint Water Crisis and the resulting public outcry) made it clear that changes were necessary. 

Where can I get more information on the Lead Copper Rule?

You can visit the EPA’s website to learn more about the LCR. Their site includes updates to the LCR, history of the LCR, and steps to take if the LCR is violated. The Federal Register was updated in December of 2021 and has a detailed timeline and summary of the public input and government review behind the latest changes to the LCR. The Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), specifically 40 CFR Parts 141 and 142 outlined as a Final Rule in the Federal Register.  

Why are lead and copper dangerous?

Lead is very dangerous for children and babies. Lead poisoning can cause developmental delays and neurological delays. This damage is irreversible and can sometimes be fatal. LEAD, AT ANY LEVEL presents risks to the human body that include damage to the brain, kidneys, nervous system, and red blood cells.

Copper is also very harmful to human organs causing anything from an odd taste to stomach pains and even cancer. Extended exposure to levels of copper over 1.3 mg/L can cause liver failure, damage to other organs and even death.

How does copper get into my water?

Copper contamination in water is an indicator of copper piping or fittings being degraded by corrosive, unbalanced water corroding copper piping. Copper is rarely found naturally in groundwater in high concentrations.

The main cause of copper in drinking water is uniform corrosion from waters of low pH and low alkalinity and galvanic corrosion from waters that have high chloride and CSMR values. These types of waters tend to not form protective scales on piping and fixtures which helps to prevent corrosion. Water drained from pipes after sitting has the highest copper concentrations as the water has had more time to actively dissolve the copper. 

What do I do if I think I have copper in my water?

First call a local water lab such as RETEGO Labs and have them perform a water test. If you do indeed have copper in your drinking water it may require replacing piping with alternative materials or there are EPA approved options to treat your water to mitigate the corrosion.

If you suspect you may have copper in your water:

    • Immediately discontinue using hot water in your drinking and cooking (hot water leaches copper at higher rates)
    • Run cold water through the tap before using any water to flush out the contaminated, stagnant water

Signs you may have copper in your drinking water:

    • A metallic taste
    • Green/blue staining on plumbing fixtures and/or in water tint
    • Plants dying (copper is toxic to plants)

Note that these are common signs, but it may be difficult to detect without a water test in lower concentrations. (NOTE: Test Strips are NOT accurate at the low levels where copper still poses a risk) 

How does lead get into my water?

The most probable source of lead contamination in your drinking water is due to dissolution of lead from plumbing due to corrosive, unbalanced waters. Sources of lead in home plumbing are brass fittings, older lead pipes, lead soldering of copper piping, new fixtures (less than 5 years), soft water, and water sitting in pipes for extended periods of time.

What do I do if I think I have lead in my water?

First call a local water lab such as RETEGO Labs and have them perform a water test. If lead is indicated in your drinking water it usually requires replacing piping with alternative materials.

If you suspect you may have lead in your water:

    • Immediately discontinue using hot water in your drinking and cooking (hot water leaches lead at higher rates)
    • Run cold water through the tap before using, to flush out the contaminated stagnant water and introduce new water to your pipes.
    • Use bottled water or re-mineralized RO water for any formula bottles or drinking water for children.

Signs you may have lead in your drinking water:

Since you cannot see, taste, or smell lead dissolved in water, testing is the only sure way of telling whether ANY lead is in your drinking water.  There is NO SAFE LEVEL of Lead in water.

If you have any of the fittings mentioned above in your plumbing ensure you test your water often, because it poses a greater risk. You can call RETEGO Labs to help you with that.  Accurate testing of lead at low levels is very difficult and cannot be completed using a “test strip”.

If you would like a peace of mind about the water in your home, please schedule a water test with RETEGO Labs at: (801) 907-5031

Sources:

EPA updated guidelines

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