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EPA Takes Step Toward Revising Rule on Lead in Drinking Water

The Environmental Protection Agency is seeking input from state and local officials on a potential revision of the federal rule regulating lead and copper in drinking water.

In a letter sent out Thursday morning, EPA head Scott Pruitt invited state officials to agency headquarters next month to discuss the Lead and Copper Rule, which was established in 1991.

The EPA has been working on potential changes to the rule for years, but pressure to revise the rule increased after the Flint water crisis began in 2014, when cost-cutting measures resulted in dangerously elevated levels of lead—a known neurotoxin—in the residential water supply for the Michigan town. Rick Snyder, Michigan's governor, has called the current federal standards "dumb and dangerous."

"Despite lead contaminated sites being an environmental threat to our country, EPA has not updated the Lead and Copper Rule in decades," Pruitt said in a statement. "In keeping with our commitment to cooperative federalism, EPA is seeking input from state stakeholders on proposed revisions to properly address lead and ensure communities have access to safe drinking water."

Potential revisions laid out by the Obama-era EPA include replacing lead water pipes, acquiring better corrosion control technology, and implementing more rigorous sampling standards. But, ultimately, any changes that are made to the rule are likely to lead to higher compliance costs for state and local governments.