Midnight Watch: Clean Water

Lead and Copper Rule Revisions

In December 2019, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed revisions to the Lead and Copper Rule under the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA). The proposal includes provisions that weaken important public health protections, including a reduction in the annual rate at which water utilities must replace lead pipes to address harmful levels of lead concentration in water — a change that may violate the SDWA’s anti-backsliding provision, as state attorneys general warned in comments filed in February 2020.

🔴NEW DEVELOPMENT: The EPA published the final rule on January 15.

Preliminary Regulatory Determinations for PFOS and PFOA

In March 2020, the EPA issued a preliminary decision to regulate only two per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) — perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) — under the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA). PFAS chemicals can cause reproductive, developmental, liver and kidney damage and have been linked to cancer. In June 2020, state attorneys general submitted comments encouraging the EPA to establish drinking water standards for other PFAS chemicals under the SDWA, in addition to PFOA and PFOS. The final regulatory determination could be published during the transition period.

🔴NEW DEVELOPMENT: The White House completed its review of the final rule on January 14.

Coal Ash Impoundment Closure Regulations

On November 12, the EPA published the second part (first part here) of its rollback of a 2015 rule governing the disposal of toxic coal ash in landfills and surface impoundments. Among other changes, the second part of the rollback would allow certain unlined impoundments to remain open indefinitely. The attorneys general of Maryland, Illinois, and Michigan filed comments opposed to the proposed rule.