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Trump's "Dirty Water Rule" to be Revised

Emily Driehaus @ Friday, June 18, 2021 at 1:04 pm -0400

Emily Driehaus  |  Science Communication Intern

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it will revise regulations from the Trump administration that limit protections for certain bodies of water. The rule, commonly referred to as WOTUS, has been amended several times over various years. 

The EPA and the Army said in a statement that the rule “is leading to significant environmental degradation.” Acting Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works Jaime Pinkham also said that current regulations established under the Trump administration have led to a drop of 25 percentage points in decisions that would give bodies of water protections under the Clean Water Act.

The Navigable Waters Protection Rule was established on April 21, 2020 after the Trump administration repealed an Obama-era rule that recognized smaller bodies of water as “waters of the United States” and gave them protections if they contributed to a larger water source. Protecting these small water sources was meant to prevent pollution from flowing into larger bodies of water, including drinking water resources. 

The Trump administration’s rule updated the definition of “waters of the United States” to exclude waters such as wetlands and streams from receiving protections under the Clean Water Act. 

The exclusion of certain bodies of water under the Navigable Waters Protection Rule is most significant in arid states like Arizona and New Mexico. Of the 1,500 streams in these two states, almost every one is excluded from protections. 
According to The Hill, EPA Administrator Michael Regan said that the agency will not “return verbatim” to the regulations from the Obama administration in a recent congressional hearing. 

A statement released by the EPA said that the new regulations will be guided by the Clean Water Act, the effects of climate change on water resources, the practicality of implementation, and input from the agricultural community, tribal and local governments, environmental groups, and communities with concerns about environmental justice. 

Our Take

We are very encouraged by the Biden administration and EPA’s step toward fixing water regulations. Water pollution can expose the public to harmful chemicals and substances through their drinking water, and we hope the new revisions to the Navigable Waters Protection Rule will recognize the importance of small bodies of water to the environment and our drinking water systems and protect them from pollution.

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What You Need To Know About NRDC's Latest Nationwide Lead Report

Analies Dyjak @ Monday, May 31, 2021 at 8:49 pm -0400

Christina Liu | Scientific Contributor   

The National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) released a recent analysis of EPA lead data. NRDC found that 186 million people across the United States were exposed to elevated lead levels through their drinking water systems.The EPA, CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics all recognize that there is no safe level of lead for children. This article breaks down important findings from this study and what they mean for your drinking water.

1. Lead in Drinking Water Is a Significant Issue in Many Parts of the Country

  • 186 million people in the United States between January 1, 2018 and December 31, 2020 drank water that exceeded the pediatrician recommended maximum lead level of 1 part per billion (ppb).
  • 28 million people were served by drinking water systems that totaled 12,892 lead violations.
  • Seven million people drank water that exceeded EPA’s Lead Action Level of 15 ppb.
  • The CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics have stated that there is no safe level of lead for young children. The EPA has also set the maximum contaminant level goal (MCLG) for lead in drinking water at 0 parts per billion because lead can be harmful to human health even at low exposure levels. 

2. Do Federal Laws Protect You From Lead Exposure in Drinking Water?

Unfortunately, no. The Lead and Copper Rule (LCR) was first enacted in 1991 and has seen minimal changes since then. It is the only major regulation aimed at protecting the public from lead exposure in drinking water. It does however contain loopholes, exemptions, and regulatory flaws which demonstrate that the LCR does not necessarily prioritize human health. The most obvious and deceptive flaw is the 90th percentile rule, which states that only 90% of samples must meet EPA’s 15 part per billion “Action Level (AL)” threshold. This means that 10% of samples can exceed the AL threshold and still be in compliance with the law.

3. My Water Source is Completely Clean. Do I Still Have To Worry About Lead?

Lead contaminates tap water differently than most pollutants, because lead comes from plumbing - not the water supply. Water leaving the treatment plant can be entirely lead-free but becomes contaminated once it hits older infrastructure. For example, some buildings in older neighborhoods have lead-containing service pipes that connect water mains to the residential plumbing, and plumbing installed before 1986 often used lead-containing solder to join copper pipes. If corrosion control measures fail (what happened in Flint, MI), lead can leach from the pipes into the tap water. This problem is exacerbated when water sits stagnant for several hours before use (e.g. overnight or while resident is at work), because lead concentrations rise as corrosive water sits in the pipes.

Case Study: New York City

New York City provides municipal tap water for more than half the population of New York, through an impressive network of 19 reservoirs and 3 lakes. New York City’s tap water is widely recognized in the water industry as the “Gold Standard” for urban water providers (it’s truly an engineering feat on an unimaginable scale). However, even if the water leaves the reservoirs and water plants lead-free, lead contamination occurs when the water encounters aging pipes and connections that contain lead. In the table below you’ll notice several samples are well over the federal Action Level - some are over 300 times higher than the 15 part per billion threshold.

Table 1. New York City lead levels from 2016-2020. 

Year

Total # Samples

# Samples Above 15 ppb EPA Limit 

% of Samples above 15 ppb EPA Limit

Max Lead Concentration Found (ppb)

2020

411

28

6.80%

120

2019

487

26

5.33%

190

2018

481

26

5.40%

277

2017

487

26

5.33%

190

2016

498

34

6.80%

4726


4.  Does The American Jobs Infrastructure Plan Go Far Enough To Reduce Lead Exposure?

The American Jobs Plan includes $111 billion in funding for water infrastructure. $45 billion of this is being allocated to eliminate ALL lead pipes and service lines. That is a significant promise, but not a lot of money with which to accomplish this. An estimated 6-10 million homes in the U.S. still receive their drinking water from a lead pipe or lead service line. In addition, the process of replacing city-wide distribution lines will be invasive and time-consuming. It involves digging up streets, section by section, across an entire city. Individual homeowners also need to hire a specialist to replace their lead service lines to avoid potential exposure to this known neurotoxin. Also, lead levels increase for the first few months after a service line is replaced. We have an article that goes in depth as to why this is, which you can find here. Unfortunately, if you currently have lead service lines that bring water to your home, while you may experience relief (new pipes) in the future, this won’t be an immediate fix.

What can I do?  

  1. Get informed. Look up the water quality report in your area. See if your water supplier is one of the ones mentioned in the NRDC study. Information on lead in drinking water, testing methods, and steps you can take to minimize exposure is available from the Safe Drinking Water Hotline or on the EPA’s page: Basic Information about Lead in Drinking Water

  2. Get your water tested for lead. Many cities have free lead testing kits or lead testing services. Check your city’s website or water quality report for information.  Please take advantage of these resources if they are available to you.  

  3. Flush your tap before using water for consumption. If your water has been sitting for over six hours, minimize the potential for lead exposure by flushing your tap for a minimum of 5 minutes before using water for drinking or cooking. 

  4. Use cold water. Use only cold water for drinking, cooking and making baby formula. Hot tap water is known to cause lead to leach from your home's pipes.

  5. Check your Filters. If you are using a filter for your drinking water, please verify that it is certified for lead removal.  

How Can Hydroviv Help Me?

Hydroviv is a water filtration company that uses water quality data to optimize water filters for each customer's water. In addition to lead, we use the water quality data for each location to determine what we consider to be major “points of emphasis” that we use to build water filters that are built specifically for municipal water in your area as well as for private wells.

If you’re interested in learning more about water filters that have been optimized for your municipal tap water or private well, or just have questions about water quality in general, feel free to visit www.hydroviv.com, reach out by email (hello@hydroviv.com) or through our live chat. We post water-related news on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook

Hydroviv's drinking water filters carry NSF certifications to Standard 42 (aesthetic effects--Chlorine Removal) and Standard 53 (health effects--Lead, VOCs, and PFOA/PFOS removal), and are independently tested to remove hundreds of contaminants.

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New York and Michigan Adopt PFAS Standards

Analies Dyjak @ Monday, August 3, 2020 at 10:07 am -0400

Analies Dyjak, M.A.  |  Policy Nerd

New York and Michigan have recently set enforceable standards for PFAS contamination in drinking water. Both of these states have been hit extremely hard by PFAS contamination in the last year. Both New York and Michigan set their own PFAS standards because this category of harmful contaminants are not currently regulated by the federal government. 

New York PFAS Standards: 

New York State has adopted standards for two PFAS variations: PFOA and PFOS. Water utilities are now required to reduce PFOA and PFOS to 10 parts per trillion (each). Materials processing, textile manufacturing, industry and machinery services in upstate New York and on the New Jersey are responsible for the high levels of PFAS in water. An incineration facility in Cohoes, New York had been burning PFAS in the form of AFFF since 2018. A study out of Bennington College determined that PFAS were being detected downwind of the facility, and that the compounds were not being entirely burned. Further research is necessary to determine if surrounding groundwater is impacted in the town Cohoes. The New York PFAS standards are depicted in the table below:

PFAS Chemical NY State Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL)
PFOA 10 parts per trillion
PFOS 10 parts per trillion


Michigan PFAS Standards:

Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) has recently set enforceable standards for 7 different PFAS compounds. Michigan has been hit harder by PFAS contamination than almost any other state. In January of 2020, the state of Michigan filed a lawsuit against 17 companies for damages resulting from exposure to PFAS chemicals, and for concealing toxicological information. Some of the companies involved in the lawsuit include 3M, DuPont, and Chemours. During the summer of 2019, the Governor’s office announced a state of emergency Parchment and Cooper Township, Michigan. PFAS levels in Parchment drinking water were detected as high as 1,587 parts per trillion, which is 23 times higher than EPA’s Public Health Advisory for PFAS. The Michigan EGLE mapped out areas of the state where PFAS levels in groundwater exceed 70 parts per trillion. The Michigan PFAS standards are depicted in the table below:

PFAS Chemical  MI State Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL)
PFNA 6 parts per trillion
PFOA 8 parts per trillion
PFOS 16 parts per trillion
PFHxS 51 parts per trillion
GenX 370 parts per trillion
PFBS 420 parts per trillion
PFHxA 400,000 parts per trillion


What Does This Mean for Municipalities?

Municipalities will be required to comply with new state regulations, meaning that water providers will need to update existing treatment facilities. Removing PFAS at the municipal level is not cheap. In North Carolina, a water treatment facility is updating its filtration system to remove PFAS chemicals. The initial updates will cost $35.9 million, with annual maintenance fees of $2.9 million. Rate payers are responsible for paying for these updates, which can significantly increase your monthly water bill. 

Federal Standards Are Much Less Strict

For a bit of perspective, the current federal Public Health Advisory levels established by EPA are much less strict. According to EPA, PFOA and PFOS are considered “unsafe” when detected at an individual or combined concentration of 70 parts per trillion or higher. PFOA and PFOS are the only two PFAS variations that currently have federal Public Health Advisory Levels. It’s important to note that Public Health Advisories are non-enforceable, and that municipal water providers are not required to follow them. If a contaminant is detected at a level higher than a Public Health Advisory in a state that does not have its own MCL, the utility or municipality is not required to take action.

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