NACWA Urges Treatment Flexibility in LCR Comments

(February 12, 2020) – EPA recently proposed a regulatory rulemaking to update the 1991 Lead and Copper Rule (LCR) on November 13, 2019. NACWA recently submitted comments to EPA in response to the proposal expressing concerns that the LCR Revisions include a standardized “one-sized fits all” optimal corrosion control treatment (CCT) methodology of orthophosphate dosing over the traditional flexibility of alkalinity and pH adjustments, which could create downstream nutrient challenges for public clean water.

While NACWA supports efforts to address lead contamination in drinking water, the Association’s comments emphasized that the LCR Revisions should consider downstream water quality impacts, particularly over increased nutrient loadings. The proposed rulemaking does specifically acknowledge the interrelationship between drinking water systems and wastewater treatment plants; however, EPA precludes upstream drinking water utilities from ruling out orthophosphate as a corrosion control treatment methodology “simply based on the increase in loading to wastewater treatment facilities.”

This “more phosphorus in” philosophy will undoubtedly require wastewater treatment plants, particularly those in arid and semi-arid areas where utilities discharge into low flow or effluent dominated streams, to treat effluent to greater levels at greater costs in order to comply with stringent Clean Water Act nutrient requirements. In a true one-water framework, upstream drinking water utilities should be able to consider and make flexible management decisions that are protective of public health as well as protective of downstream water quality.

NACWA recommends EPA not adopt a “one-size fits all” approach to mitigating lead by mandating orthophosphate as the preferred optimal CCT approach but rather continue to support the inherent flexibilities granted under the Safe Drinking Water Act for drinking water utilities to make responsible, scientific decisions for their own facility’s CCT techniques. In doing so, drinking water utilities can continue safeguarding public health while simultaneously ensuring protection of downstream water quality concerns.

If members have concerns or questions, please contact Emily Remmel, NACWA’s Director of Regulatory Affairs.