Frequently asked questions about the Lead and Copper Rule Improve­ments

Frequently asked questions about the Lead and Copper Rule Improve­ments
This is a list of FAQs our experts are receiving from water utilities about the Lead and Copper Rule Improve­ments (LCRI). This is our team's inter­pre­ta­tion of the rule as they are reviewing the proposed changes.

In November 2023, the EPA released the proposed LCRI to strengthen the Lead and Copper Rule Revisions (LCRR) that were promulgated in 2021. In this article, our experts answer FAQs about the compliance timeline, partial and private side replace­ments, sampling protocols, corrosion control treatment, and service line veri­fi­ca­tion and inventory.

What will be required of water systems that do not have any lead or galvanized requiring replacement (GRR) service lines?

Systems that do not have any lead service lines or GRRs will still need to comply with many activities like submitting an annual inventory until there are no unknowns remaining, performing school sampling, and partic­i­pat­ing in continued compliance sampling. 

compliance timeline

What is due by October of 2024? If the LCRI is promulgated, when is the next due date for related actions? 

If the LCRI is promulgated before October 2024, then by October 2024, initial inventories are due. 30 days following that initial inventory, noti­fi­ca­tion will need to go to any stake­hold­ers impacted by service lines that are lead, GRR or unknown. The next compliance date is expected to be October 2027 (but will depend on when the LCRI is promulgated).

Public noti­fi­ca­tion within 24 hours is also required for any action level exceedance (a “tier 1” notice) starting in October 2024. Public commu­ni­ca­tion around distur­bances and limitations in conducting partials may be required prior to October 2027. We expect clar­i­fi­ca­tion on this before October 2024 from the EPA.

Should water systems be imple­ment­ing all LCRR provisions until the LCRI is promulgated, or is anything originally in LCRR now on hold? 

Our experts’ recom­men­da­tion is to focus on the LCRI. State agencies are starting to communicate the de-prior­i­ti­za­tion of LCRR require­ments like lead service line replacement plans and sampling require­ments to utilities. The EPA is committed to finalizing the LCRI before the LCRR goes into effect in October 2024.

Our team recommends estimating your future 90th percentile under the new sampling schemes now. Addi­tion­ally, it’s key to determine what procedures and laws must be in place to begin work on private property, whether it’s material inves­ti­ga­tion or replace­ments. Veri­fi­ca­tion and replacement plans are no longer theoretical, so steps must be taken as a utility to complete these actions.

For further clar­i­fi­ca­tion on the new timeline, our experts created this document that outlines timing for inventories, public commu­ni­ca­tion require­ments, sampling and more.

service line veri­fi­ca­tion and inventory

A utility has replaced many lead goosenecks over the past 20 years but had no docu­men­ta­tion of replacing them. Is that a problem? 

Under the LCRI, there will be a unique connecter field required for every service line in the inventory. Addi­tion­ally, there are required iden­ti­fi­ca­tion categories specified for connectors: lead, replaced lead, never lead, unknown, or no connector present. There is no “not lead” status allowed for connector. If a utility has docu­men­ta­tion of a non-lead connector being installed at a location, but no specific information on the previous presence of a lead connector (either “never” or “replaced”) then the status for the connector must be considered “unknown” in this case.

What guidance has EPA released for the use of machine learning to identify lead service lines?

EPA has recognized the use of machine learning on a state-by-state basis. Our experts suspect with the LCRI, that state regulatory agencies will feel more comfortable using alternative methods because of the additional validation step in Year 7 for service lines identified as ‘non-lead’ without records or two visual inspections of the pipe exterior. Our experts advise that the validation step was likely added to address concerns with machine learning and other methods where you don’t physically see the wall of the pipe.

What is the impact if you have lead connectors and galvanized service laterals? 

Lead connectors upstream of galvanized service lines are not considered GRR. However, they will be included in the new Tier 3 pool for sampling and need to be sampled above copper with lead solder sites. Record the connectors in the inventory and replace when performing work in that area. The replacement and veri­fi­ca­tion deadlines do not apply to connectors, and so lead and unknown connectors can remain in perpetuity. The EPA tightened-up the definition of lead connector to add a specific 2-foot length, and so if there is knowledge or docu­men­ta­tion that lead goosenecks are longer, the state may interpret them as lead service lines. Systems should keep goosenecks on their radar as some states are regulating any lead goosenecks as lead service lines.

partial and private side replacements


If the property owner denies consent for the replacement of the portion of the service line they own, can the utility replace the city side of the line? 

The LCRI limits partial replace­ments to emergency situations and with capital improvement projects only. Emergency situations are when there is a leak or a break on a lead pipe on the utility side and the customer side is galvanized, lead or unknown. Within 45 days of the emergency event, the utility side must offer to replace the customer side of the line. 

During a planned water main project or other capital improvement projects, the utility must offer to replace the customer’s side of the line in advance. After four attempted offers, if the customer will not consent, the utility can proceed with the partial replacement following all of the post-partial replacement require­ments per the Rule.

Partial replace­ments are not permitted to be conducted as part of a lead service line replacement program. If the customer does not consent after four attempts or if there are other legal restric­tions preventing access or work on private property, the water system cannot replace the utility side of the lead service line. Both sides of the line must be left undisturbed. Water systems will need to track when that home is under new ownership, and recommence the four attempts at offering the replacement to the new homeowner.

If a partial replacement is completed, it will not count towards meeting the overall minimum replacement rate calculation.

When the utility side is lead and the customer side is non-lead, and a meter located within the house is replaced, is this case still considered a major disturbance? 

Our team is still seeking further clar­i­fi­ca­tion from the EPA on this, but the under­stand­ing is that since the line is classified as a lead service line, the work described would be considered a major disturbance. Until further information is released, our experts are considering this case a major disturbance. 

How should a utility proceed with a replacement if the lead portion is on the private side or if the service line is 100% privately owned?

The LCRI indicates that regardless of ownership, if a system can be provided “access” (i.e. through an owner’s signing of a Right of Entry agreement), then it is responsible for replacing the service line. The system must offer to replace the line, but if replace­ments are not funded through grants or loans, then the utility has to offer the replacement, but it can be at a cost to the customer. Regardless of ownership, the line must be offered to be replaced. 

Does the utility have to offer to replace the customer's side, or can they simply refer them to contact a certified plumber?

It is our team’s under­stand­ing that utilities must offer to hire the contractor and perform the replacement for the customer. If certified plumbers are pre-approved, they must offer to coordinate with the plumbers if this is the elected route for replacement. However, the customer can be responsible for the cost of the replacement on the private-side. Our experts are seeking further clar­i­fi­ca­tion from the EPA on other contracting options for utilities.

Are utilities that have split ownership of service lines subject to the 10-year replacement requirement?

Yes. No matter the ownership, if the utility can get access with owner approval, then it is required to be in the replacement pool.

sampling protocols

What are the changes for school and childcare testing require­ments from the LCRR to the LCRI?

The main school and childcare sampling changes under the LCRI are to the timeline (now expected to begin in 2028) and to the waiver exemption process. The type of sampling that may be considered for a system’s waiver has been expanded to include any past sampling consistent with EPA 3T’s methods conducted from 2021 up to the compliance period of 2028. This includes sampling conducted through voluntary programs funded by EPA’s WIIN Grants.

The detailed require­ments such as the minimum number of samples per facility, the minimum number of facilities sampled per year and the sampling methods generally remain the same under the LCRR and LCRI. 

Are sampling waivers required on a school-by-school basis, or can utilities view school district replace­ments as a whole? 

It depends on the state and in what context the sampling is performed. For example, if a water system is being proactive and wants to get ahead of the proposed require­ments, the state would likely require docu­men­ta­tion of every school and childcare facility that had sampling conducted and the date those samples were taken. 

If there is a requirement for public schools to perform sampling, or if the public school system has its own program and data process for conducting it, then the utility could consider a more bulk process. In many cases, it will be down to the school level to provide that data to the state to check which locations have been sampled and which still need to be. 

How will the LCR monitoring schedule be impacted, especially for systems that were on a reduced monitoring schedule? 

It is anticipated that all systems with lead or galvanized lines (GRR or with a current or previous gooseneck), and systems with any unknown service lines at the time of the baseline inventory submission, will return to standard monitoring for at least two sampling rounds starting in 2028. Our experts advise it may be difficult for any system to stay on reduced monitoring. Systems without any lead services, galvanized lines or unknowns could conceivably stay on reduced monitoring, if they continue to monitor according to require­ments and meet new LCRI reduced criteria during the three-year interim.

corrosion control treatment

Under prior regulations like the LCR, there was a provision that allowed utilities to develop their corrosion control programs based on successful neighboring system experience (“analogous” systems). Will this still be a provision in the LCRI?

It will be, but it will depend on the utility char­ac­ter­is­tics. Large and medium systems with lead or galvanized services will not be able to, and these systems must conduct their own pipe loop studies. For smaller systems without lead, analogous system examples can be proposed to the state for expedited approval.

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There are many nuances in the proposed regulations, and our goal is to help utilities understand and comply with the LCRI.
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Download a detailed timeline of the proposed LCRI
Our experts outline timing for inventories, public communication requirements, sampling and more.
LCRI Timeline LCRI Timeline
Watch our experts explain the LCRI in our latest webinar.
Our team covers proposed changes to inventories, replace­ments, distur­bances, water quality, corrosion control and more.
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Have more questions about the proposed changes?
Get in direct contact with our corrosion control team to learn how the LCRI could impact your current operations.

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