The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has taken a significant step towards environmental protection and public health with the introduction of the Lead and Copper Rule Improvement (LCRI) on November 30, 2023. This new rule aims to reduce the use and distribution of single-use plastic water bottles and address the longstanding issue of lead contamination in drinking water.
The LCRI is an amendment to the original Lead and Copper Rule established in 1991, focusing on controlling lead and copper levels in drinking water. A notable aspect of the LCRI is its support for the “Filtered Not Bottled” campaign, which advocates for the use of point-of-use filters in households affected by lead-contaminated water. This initiative marks a move away from single-use plastic water bottles, addressing both plastic pollution and water safety concerns.
The United States is currently grappling with the challenge of an estimated 12 million lead service lines, affecting over 22 million people. The Biden-Harris Administration has committed to removing all lead service lines within the next decade, a goal that underscores the urgency of providing safe drinking water alternatives in the interim.
The LCRI’s emphasis on reducing single-use plastic bottles is grounded in environmental and health concerns. These bottles not only contribute to pollution but also pose health risks due to the release of toxic chemicals. The Plastic Pollution Coalition has worked for over a decade to debunk the myth of single-use plastic bottles as a safe water source, promoting reusable, plastic-free bottles and water filters as safer alternatives.
In 2022, the Coalition launched the “Filtered Not Bottled” campaign, urging the EPA and local governments to support the distribution of filters for households with lead pipes. This approach is seen as a more economical and environmentally friendly solution compared to the high costs and pollution associated with bottled water.
While the LCRI has been welcomed as a significant achievement, it still falls short in some areas. Advocates are calling for further amendments, such as reducing the lead action level to 5 parts per billion and requiring water systems to fund the full replacement of lead service lines, including those on private property.
The EPA has opened the proposed rule for public comment and plans to finalize it by October 2024. This period of public consultation is crucial for refining the rule to ensure it effectively addresses both lead contamination and plastic pollution, with an eye towards safeguarding public health and the environment.
Plastic Pollution Coalition continues to advocate for sustainable solutions to address polluted drinking water, emphasizing the importance of moving away from single-use plastics. As the EPA moves forward with this rule, it represents a crucial step in ensuring clean, safe drinking water and reducing environmental pollution.