The Lead and Copper Rule (LCR), initially established in 1991, marked a significant milestone in safeguarding drinking water by replacing the prior maximum lead and copper contamination concentration of 50 parts per billion (ppb) with action level concentrations necessitating responses from both the public and water systems if exceeded. Minor revisions in 2007 aimed to enhance customer awareness, treatment, lead service line (LSL) replacement, and monitoring, but the LCR has largely remained unchanged over its 30-year existence.
The first substantial revision, known as the Lead and Copper Rule Revision (LCRR), was scheduled to take effect in March 2021. The LCRR introduces lowering the lead action level to 10 ppb for outreach, treatment, and monitoring, with 15 ppb triggering LSL replacement. It also mandates sampling from at least 20% of elementary schools and childcare facilities and shortens the notification period to 24 hours to enhance public outreach and transparency. The mandate extends the LSL replacement timeframe from 14 to 33 years, drawing both criticism and praise from myriad stakeholders.
In 2019, Bluefield estimated the size of LSL replacement to be US$32 billion. Since then, the estimates have risen to approximately US$45 billion, per the EPA.
The following analysis draws from a client presentation given by Bluefield Research’s team of water experts on the pending changes to the LCR and potential opportunities going forward.