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What you should know about the EPA's proposed revision to lead and copper rule

Exterior Faucet
Survey of water service lines continues in Great Falls
Posted at 8:27 AM, Feb 23, 2024
and last updated 2024-02-23 10:27:03-05

GREAT FALLS — In the video above, Brianna Juneau reports on the ongoing effort by the City of Great Falls to identify and inventory the locations of lead, non-lead, galvanized, and unknown water service lines within the City limits.



It's due to proposed revision to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Lead and Copper rule (LCRI) that mandates the replacement of lead pipes and water lines by 2035.

The proposed LCRI is a major advancement in protecting children and adults from the significant health effects from being exposed to lead in drinking water. These advancements are based on the science and existing practices utilized by drinking water systems.

Currently, the city of Great Falls is focused on doing a water service line inventory that is required by the EPA to be completed by October of this year.

In 2022, around 10,000 letters were mailed out, asking homeowners to identify the material of their water line pipes. More information about how to test the material type can be found here.

James Hewett, the Civil Engineering Project Manager for Great Falls said, “Our current federal administration has really put an emphasis on removing lead water lines from everywhere in the U.S. not just in Great Falls, and so that is why we're getting a current push.”

For now, homeowners don’t have to worry about any big changes. The city is currently waiting on the final revision of the Lead and Copper Rule but if passed, it will be the homeowners responsibility to replace lead water lines.

In the city of Great Falls, homeowners are responsible for the water service line from the water main in the street to the meter in the home. Costs of replacing lead pipes fall in the responsibility of the homeowner, which could be up to $12,000.

The city is working on securing grants and funding that will aid homeowners for this cost, but for now, a change isn’t required until the proposed revision to the Lead and Copper Rule is passed.

For more information on the Lead and Copper Rule, click here. For more information on the revision, click here.

For more information, call the City's Water Service Inventory Hotline at 406-455-8401, click here, or email waterserviceline@greatfallsmt.net.

From the City of Great Falls website:

Pursuant to the EPAs forthcoming Lead And Copper Rule Revision, the City is required to identify and inventory the locations of lead, non-lead, galvanized, and unknown water service lines within the City limits. The City is making a diligent effort to compose an accurate water service line inventory by October 16, 2024, by utilizing existing asset management software researching city records, and in public outreach and citizen engagement. The City maintains records of every "tap" made to a water main since 1937. When a tap is made to a water main, this is the point in time when a water service line is installed. The City also maintains records of every "re-tap" made to a water main; a re-tap is a replacement of a water service line at the same location or serving the same lot as the original tap.

The city can show that all new water service lines installed after 1970 and all water service lines fully replaced after 1980 are Non-Lead. Therefore, about 10,000 water services in the City installed or replaced prior to these dates are of unknown material type and have the potential of being Lead or Galvanized.

In July of 2022, the City of Great Falls delivered letters to these 10,000 homes and businesses addressed to the current resident. The letters provided information in regards to the EPA's Lead & Copper Rule Revision, and requested that current residents participate in identifying their water service line material type and then return that information to the City by November 18th, 2022. The letters provided instructions on how to visually identify the water service line material at the point where it enters the building, typically just upstream of the water meter.

Those who received a letter and do not respond to the City's efforts will have their water service material types identified as "Unknown." The EPA requires that all services with "Unknown" material types be mailed a letter every year starting in 2025 that provides a statement about service line material, lead health effects, steps to minimize lead exposure in drinking water, and an opportunity to verify the material of the service line.