The Suffolk County Water Authority maintains nearly 400,000 customer accounts, and each customer maintains a service line connecting its home plumbing to the public water system. And each connection also has a service line and components maintained by the water supplier connecting to the water main. And every single one of these lines must be added to a lead service line inventory required to be compiled by water systems across the country as perhaps the most daunting challenge included in the Lead and Copper Rule revisions that went into effect under the guidance of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in December of 2021.
The rule revisions had two major goals. First, it requires water utilities of all sizes to develop inventories of lead service lines in their service areas and to share that information with their communities. While this requirement may seem mundane to some, in truth, it is a tremendous catalyst for better protection today and for a future without lead service lines. Consumers who know that they have lead lines connecting their homes to the water system will be more inclined to collaborate with the utility to replace them. Homebuyers will be more inclined to ask that lead lines be replaced before a property is transferred. Local governments and citizens who more fully understand where lead risks exist may be more motivated to collaborate on solutions.
Second, the rule requires water utilities to develop plans to remove all lead service lines in their entirety over time. This is an enormous undertaking that requires an all-hands-on-deck approach in our communities. Water utilities are ready to be leaders in this challenge. However, the removal of all lead service lines cannot be accomplished without a spirit of community collaboration and shared responsibility among water utilities, property owners, manufacturers, state regulators, federal agencies, financing authorities, plumbers, code officials, local government, and many others. It will take time, coordination, and money. But ultimately, the best way to protect people from lead in water is to remove the sources of lead. The water community stands ready to embark on this next frontier of lead risk reduction.
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