Water Wednesday - Get the Lead Out

Category: Engineering

Written By: Keith Rutherford

Date: June 2, 2021

Water Wednesday - Get the Lead Out cover image

Keith Rutherford, PE, is a Principal and a Senior Project Manager for Parkhill’s Treatment Practice. As an expert in hydraulics, pipelines, and pumping systems, he publishes a series of Water Wednesday blogs for Parkhill employees. He has served as president of the local chapter for the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), vice president – technical for the Texas section of ASCE, and as a project advisory committee member for the Water Reuse Foundation.


The highly-publicized Flint water crisis began in April of 2014 when the administration changed the water source from Lake Huron and the Detroit River to the Flint River. Almost immediately, customers started to complain about taste, odor, and the aesthetics of the water coming from their taps. The new water supply was not treated with corrosion inhibitors which allowed the water to leach lead from the old pipes into the water supply. The contaminated water exposed about 100,000 people to lead concentrations above the recommended levels. By October 2015 the city had switched back to their old water source which was properly treated to prevent leaching. The damage had been done and the effects are still present today in many of the children that were exposed to these high levels of lead. 

Now, over 7 years later, the EPA is getting close to implementing a Revised Lead and Copper Rule that will mandate lead pipe replacement which would prevent this from ever happening again. The proposed rule change will also reduce the trigger level for action to 10 parts per billion (ppb).

The Revised Lead and Copper Rule is currently scheduled to go into effect in June of 2021. Public comment might push this date back, but the end goal of the revisions will probably not change. The goal of the revisions is to mandate the removal of existing lead pipe and service lines in water distribution systems and replacing them with a modern pipe material like PVC, steel, or ductile iron. The proposed revision would have all the lead pipes in the US replaced by September of 2024. For clients that have lead pipes in their system, this could be a large financial burden. In addition, communities with lead pipes will need to implement a treatment plant that includes the use of corrosion control additives to prevent leaching of lead into the water until the pipes can be replaced. 

The Treatment Practice has prepared a presentation that explains the changes and the steps public water systems will need to take to comply with the revisions. If you have a client that is interested in learning more, please let us know so we can schedule a time for a webinar to inform our clients. 

This list summarizes the points addressed in our presentation as they pertain to the revised rule:      

• changes to sampling procedures and equipment used   

• public education   

• consumer awareness   

• lead service line replacement   

• corrosion control treatment requirements   

• new requirements to community water systems    

• water testing and public education in schools and childcare facilities

The EPA highlights the changes as a way to BETTER PROTECT CHILDREN at schools and child care facilities, GET THE LEAD OUT of our nation’s drinking water and EMPOWER COMMUNITIES through information. More information on the rule can be found here

Parkhill can provide services to our clients by helping to develop Lead Service Line (LSL) inventories and LSL Replacement plans, monitoring and sampling plans and creating quarterly reports. Parkhill can design corrosion inhibitor injection facilities and manage the construction of the facilities.  We can develop financial assistance strategies and help with funding applications.