The latest Lead and Copper Rule Revisions (LCRR) released by the EPA in December 2020, among other action items and updates, require all water systems to inventory their lead service lines (LSLs) on BOTH the public and private side of the line, and make that information readily available to the public.
That might seem like a simple task IF water systems were already aware of most or all of their line materials, but they aren’t. In a recent poll conducted by 120Water, less than 5% of respondents had a complete record of their public and private line inventory. Since the revisions allow 3 years for utilities to have a complete inventory, many may think that time is in their favor when in fact it is quite the opposite.
Remember, the LCRR is requiring an inventory of your lines on the public and private side, not just the utility-owned portion. Identifying lines on the public side alone could require years of records review, digging, excavating and coordinating with other public works projects when lines are exposed. You must then factor in the communication and community buy-in required to achieve a complete inventory on the private side as well.
It is estimated that it could take up to $15 billion nationally to just identify lead service lines. That does not include LSL replacement. Inventorying alone will require significant time and resources on the part of water systems, most of which were not on the hook financially, nor were staff around when the lines went in.
Water systems should begin the process of inventorying now to allow ample time for a balanced budget, a detailed catalog of lines and comprehensive communication to residents. Delaying the inventory process till closer to 2024 will only lead to inconsistencies and inaccuracies, which could result in LCR violations that would require additional time and resourcing from the utility to address. For resources on LSL inventorying and replacement, including real-world examples from industry peers, check out the LSLR collaborative.
If you’ve read the news as of late, you’ve probably heard significant discussion around President Biden’s $2 trillion dollar infrastructure plan, distinctively termed the American Jobs Plan. And if you’re in the water industry, you’re likely more specifically focused on the $111 billion he has earmarked for removing lead pipes and improving water, wastewater and stormwater infrastructure across the country.
At this point, the American Jobs Plan is just that: a plan. Although the Senate has passed the bill, it is still awaiting passage in the House, thus nothing has been signed into law. But IF the President’s plan does become law, what does that mean for the water industry and how would it impact LCRR?
The primary impact the infrastructure plan will have is funding-related. Biden’s plan would pump billions of dollars toward lead pipe and service line removal, specifically through the EPA’s State Revolving Funds (SRF) and WIIN Grant Program. Rather than digging into your limited utility budget or raising rates for your customers to pay for replacing lines, you could utilize the funds designated in Biden’s plan–you’ll just have to complete the process to ask for it through WIIN or your SRF.
Here’s the kicker: the funds set aside in Biden’s plan at the moment are primarily designated for the replacement of lines, not the inventorying process laid out in LCRR. And, those utilities who already have most or all of their inventories mapped out, affectionately termed “shovel-ready” projects, are more likely to receive the funds set aside in the American Jobs Plan.
So once again, beginning your LSL inventory process now will not only save you from a potential compliance headache, but will also set your utility up for necessary funding when it comes time for the replacement stage of the process.