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Two potential developments in EPA drinking water regulations

Michigan grabbed headlines earlier this year for the high levels of lead found in many of its drinking water systems. While the Environmental Protection Agency is constantly updating, developing and reviewing its regulations, this alarming incident has led to renewed interest in updating national regulations on drinking water.

Here are a few things the EPA is doing right now to develop and/or review regulations surrounding the drinking water contaminants lead, copper and chromium.

Improving the Lead and Copper Rule (LCR)

The EPA is considering revisions to its Lead and Copper Rule (LCR), which provides guidance on water treatment for lead and copper. The LCR requires public water systems to minimize copper and lead levels in drinking water. The actions required by the rule reduce the corrosivity of water and keep lead and copper from being leached into drinking water from water distribution systems.

The proposed revisions to the LCR are designed to increase public health protections. The proposed revisions include:

  • New regulations to improve the success rate of corrosion control treatment to lower exposure to copper and lead
  • Triggering actions that reduce the lead and copper exposure when treatment for corrosion control is not successful

Possible revisions to regulations governing chromium in drinking water

The EPA is also reviewing regulations surrounding chromium in drinking water. Chromium is a tasteless and odorless heavy metal that appears naturally in volcanic dust, animals, soil, plants and rocks.

Chromium primarily appears in two forms: trivalent chromium (chromium-3) and hexavalent chromium (chromium-6). Chromium-3 is considered an important dietary element for humans, and it can be found in meats, grains, vegetables, fruits, and yeast. Chromium-6, on the other hand, is often a byproduct of industrial processes. It can be introduced into the environment naturally, and also through industrial leaks, inadequate storage processes and poor industrial waste disposal procedures.

The current EPA standard for chromium is 0.1 milligrams of chromium per liter. This covers all types of chromium - both chromium-3 and chromium-6. Under the current EPA rule, municipal water systems must test their water for total chromium to ensure it meets this standard, which was developed based on adverse dermatological reactions that can develop after years of high-level chromium exposure.

As a result of new scientific investigations surrounding chromium-6, however, the EPA has begun an in-depth investigation into the potential health effects of chromium-6. The results of that investigation could bring tighter regulations to limit chromium-6 levels in drinking water.

Protecting your interests as a business or municipality

Because new developments in EPA regulations can affect operations and liability concerns for Atlanta municipalities, real estate developers, agricultural firms, and other companies, it is vital that these organizations stay apprised of any potential changes to the law. Doing so ensures these organizations bypass costly compliance-related challenges later on down the road.

The EPA rulemaking process includes consultations with tribal governments, small businesses, and official committees. As such, organizations may have the ability to make their voices heard prior to the introduction of new environmental regulations that could negatively affect their operations.

If you have concerns about the potential effects of these potential EPA developments and want to make your voice heard, you should speak with an attorney familiar with environmental laws and litigation. Doing so means you will be well positioned to prevent environmental legal challenges down the road.

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