Lead contamination of drinking water is of great concern in the United States, with well-publicised incidents – such as the water crisis in Flint, Michigan – putting a spotlight on this issue.
Lead pipes, faucets and fixtures can corrode – especially where water has high acidity and low mineral content. As a result of this corrosion, lead can enter drinking water systems.
Although lead water pipes have been banned in the US since 1986, many ageing lead water pipes are still in operation.
According to a report released in 2021 by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), between 9.7 million to 12.8 million lead pipes carry water to homes in the US. The NRDC also noted that 40 states did not know where their lead pipes were located.
The risk of lead contamination in drinking water, therefore, is likely to continue for some time, as authorities implement programmes to identify and replace lead water infrastructure.
First implemented in 1991, the Lead and Copper rule was designed to regulate the control of lead and copper in drinking water.
It stated that if lead concentrations exceeded an action level of 15 µg/L in more than 10% of customer taps sampled, the system must undertake a number of additional actions to control corrosion.
In January 2021, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued the Lead and Copper Rule Revisions (LCRR) in a drive to further reduce childhood lead exposures.
A key component of LCRR was the introduction of a new trigger level of 10 µg/L. This means that additional planning, monitoring and corrosion measures will be introduced if lead content reached this level. Under the revisions, water systems are also required to prepare and maintain an inventory of service line materials (including lead service lines), and put in place record analysis, a sampling plan and a lead service line replacement plan by October 16, 2024.
And there have been further developments…
In 2021, EPA evaluated the LCRR and subsequently identified significant opportunities for improvements. It is now developing a new proposed rule, the Lead and Copper Rule Improvements (LCRI), which, it states, will strengthen the LCR event further.
Priority improvements in the LCRI include: proactive and equitable lead service line replacement; strengthening compliance tap sampling to better identify communities most at risk of lead contamination in drinking water and to compel further lead reduction actions; and reducing complexity around the action and trigger levels.
The EPA has stated that it intends to promulgate the LCRI before October 16, 2024.
The Lead and Copper Rule – and the improvements to it – will put more pressure on municipal water authorities and other organisations to conduct quicker, more effective and more accurate water analysis testing.
Kemio™ provides a simple method of testing for lead in water using a portable device. The test method it uses – Differential Pulse Anodic Stripping Voltammetry – has been officially approved by the EPA.
Testing for lead using Kemio™ doesn’t require any specialist training and testing can be performed on-site within three minutes. It gives accurate results, even with low concentrations of lead.
Kemio™ allows water utility professionals to carry out testing at consumers’ taps and efficiently and quickly identify corroded pipelines – a key priority under the LCRR.
The instrument is powered by Palintest’s patented single-use sensors which generate an electrical current by reacting with the metal in the water sample. Kemio measures this electrical signal to determine the concentration of heavy metal within the sample.
Kemio™ has an IP67 rated waterproof design, which means it can be operated in wet and humid environments, and does not require laboratory-grade handling, so it can be used easily ‘in the field’.
Kemio™ offers data traceability for audit compliance purposes, and results are retrieved via Palintest Connect, our cloud-based data management software.
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