EPA’s Bold Move: A Decade to Eliminate Lead Pipes

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has made a groundbreaking announcement, proposing a rule that mandates the removal of all lead pipes from the nation’s water systems within the next ten years. This ambitious initiative aligns with the Biden administration’s goal of eradicating lead pipes entirely, a move driven by the significant health risks associated with lead exposure.

Key Takeaways:

  • EPA proposes a 10-year deadline for removing lead pipes in U.S. water systems.
  • The initiative is part of the Biden administration’s broader health and environmental goals.
  • Lead exposure is linked to severe health and developmental issues, especially in children.
  • The proposal includes provisions for limited extensions in certain cases.
  • The rule aims to strengthen testing for lead in water and lower the lead action level.

Understanding the Proposal

The proposed rule is not just about removing lead pipes; it’s about accelerating progress towards a healthier future. The EPA’s plan requires water systems to replace at least 10% of lead pipes annually, with minimal exceptions. This rule is an extension of the Safe Drinking Water Act and the Lead and Copper Rule established in 1991, which was revised in 2021 with more stringent requirements.

The Health Risks of Lead

Lead exposure poses a grave health risk, particularly to children. Even low levels of lead can impede a child’s growth and development, with potential long-term consequences. Adults are not spared either, as excessive lead exposure increases the risk of cancer, stroke, kidney disease, and other health issues.

The Scale of the Challenge

The task ahead is monumental. There are an estimated 9.2 million lead service lines in the U.S. The highest proportions of these lines are in Illinois and Rhode Island, with significant numbers also in New Jersey and Michigan. The national average stands at about 8%.

Economic Implications

Compliance with this rule is expected to cost billions of dollars. However, the EPA’s cost-benefit analysis suggests that the health benefits could be four to ten times greater than the costs. These benefits include preventing IQ loss among children, avoidable deaths, and diseases.

Funding and Support

The Biden administration has allocated $15 billion through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law for this initiative. An additional $11.7 billion is available through the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund for related projects.

Next Steps

The EPA will be accepting public comments on the proposed rule for 60 days and will hold a public hearing in mid-January. This period is crucial for refining the proposal and preparing for its implementation.


The EPA’s proposal to remove lead pipes within a decade is a significant step towards ensuring safe drinking water for all Americans. It addresses a longstanding public health issue that has disproportionately affected low-income and minority communities. As the nation gears up for this massive undertaking, the focus remains on safeguarding public health and preventing future generations from the dangers of lead exposure.