States Balk At EPA’s Urged Transparency Measures While Congress Proposes Flint Inspired Legislation

A call from the Environmental Protection Agency for states and water utilities to post inventory information online about the number and locations of risky pipes has been met with some resistance.

“We do not have the initial materials inventory from systems readily available and do not intend to spend valuable staff resources sifting through microfilm to find this information,” said South Dakota’s regulatory agency, in response to the EPA. The agency instead offered to post details about the subset of homes where each utility takes its water samples.

Across a dozen states, drinking water regulators have expressed concern over the EPA directive, which encourages utility companies to provide information about homes receiving drinking water through lead service lines. This could indicate whether water could be contaminated.

Yanna Lambrinidou, an affiliate member at Virginia Tech, called the resistance expressed by some pasties as “highly troubling.”

Lambrinidou, who supports the measure, commented, “What the EPA is asking for is critically important.”

Most contaminants in water get filtered out at the water treatment plant, but lead usually enters water at the end of the system, in pipes closest to houses. This is why tracking and transparency about water lines is important. When the water in Flint, MI, started delivering alarming amounts of lead to citizens, for instance, the city still passed EPA water tests because the city wasn’t testing homes with risky service lines.

Indeed, the lead water crisis in Michigan has brought the national spotlight onto lead contamination in drinking water across the country. Congress recently responded to this crisis by unveiling a legislative package that would spend $70 billion over 10 years on water infrastructure improvements, as well as lead relief programs.

The True LEADership (Testing, Removal and Updated Evaluations of Lead Everywhere in America for Dramatic Enhancements that Restore Safety to Homes) Act is separate from another Flint-inspired aid package, which was blocked from a vote by U.S. Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah.

Among other things, the True Act would create a grant program to help communities reduce lead in drink water, increase aid for the EPA’s drinking water funds, and permanently reauthorizing the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act.

The country’s water infrastructure, especially closer to actual homes, certainly needs more work and regulation. Nearly a quarter of Angie’s List members who responded to an online poll have replaced their sewer, and 3% say it’s a project for the imminent future.

“While the Flint water crisis represents an immense failure on the part of the State of Michigan to protect the health and safety of the City’s residents,” Gary Peters of Bloomfield Township said in his statement, “Congress should take action to both help the people of Flint and address the serious challenges presented by our nation’s aging water infrastructure.”

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