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US plans to replace lead pipes stymied by poor record keeping

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President Joe Biden’s goal of replacing the nation’s lead pipes to improve drinking water quality may be hit by incomplete local records.

A better way to reduce lead contamination in the nation’s drinking water, a former Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) water chief said, was by enforcing an existing rule requiring utilities to replace some of their lead pipes every year.

The Biden administration’s infrastructure plan, released March 31, calls for replacing all lead drinking water pipes to avoid lead contamination drinking water.
As many as 10 million US homes have lead service lines, the EPA said.
EPA spokesman Nick Conger said municipalities and water utilities “are taking proactive steps to inventory and provide transparent information on the lead service lines in their jurisdictions”.

Agency administrator Michael Regan said he was confident they could identify the locations of all lead water pipes so they can all eventually be replaced. “Most cities don’t even know where they are because they don’t keep good records,” said Joe Cotruvo, who headed the EPA’s Office of Drinking Water when the original lead and copper rule was proposed in 1991.

Some water utilities also are unsure where all of their lead pipes are, and it would be a massive undertaking to find them all, said Diane VanDe Hei, CEO of the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies.