120Water recently hosted a webinar answering frequently asked questions from water professionals about the upcoming LCR revisions. Mike McGill (President, WaterPIO), Alan Roberson (Executive Director, ASDWA) and Erica Walker (Director of Environmental Policy & Programs, 120Water) provided responses to the following questions.
Our oldest waterlines date to the 1930s – are they old enough for us to expect to find lead service lines?
Yes, they could be. We’ve been using lead pipes in this country for around 150 years, and many larger US cities were using them in the early 1900s.
Cities started regulating lead pipes in the 1920s and 1930s, but then there were efforts through a group called the Lead Industries Association to try to keep our country using LSLs through the 1980s.
Every city should at least start with their own records – look at your plumbing codes and past restrictions, and use LSLR collaborative, a resource that provides information to help communities facilitate full lead service line replacement.
Once an inventory is submitted, can a water system make revisions based on newly discovered records or must the system investigate each “unknown” service line on a case by case basis?
It would likely be an annual revision – wouldn’t need to be a case by case basis. You’ll likely see unknowns found when you’re doing system rehabilitation.
Can the state audit LSL inventory data?
The state can audit LSL inventory data to make sure you’ve made a reasonable effort.
Can a water system certify no LSLs and do nothing more?
A system can certify no LSLs, and there are systems that will be able to do that with full confidence that lead was not used. However, there are many systems with a lot of unknowns – systems may know the public but not the private side which can create challenges in certifying that there are no LSLs.
What information can be used in developing an LSL inventory? What can be assumed?
We recommend that systems use building codes and materials of the time to develop their LSL inventory. Any information on materials used, when a structure was built, etc can inform your LSL plan. Take any and all sources of information and make reasonable assumptions based on those to develop your LSL inventory.
How will annual notifications to homeowners impact the LSL requirement?
It depends on how proactive you are. We recommend that you be extremely proactive – communicate with homeowners about your LCR program, what you do for customers, etc. Get information out early so that when you do notify a customer, it isn’t a shock.
Notifying customers needs to be done on an annual basis to set expectations. If you have newly discovered records, or find an LSL that you didn’t know about, explain that it’s part of the process – a key aspect of the overall work needed to get an assessment of your system.
What’s the best way to locate LSLs underground when there are no records to review?
There are going to be a lot of utilities that find themselves in this situation – this isn’t just an issue for small cities. It depends on your system’s size and staffing capacity.
A strategic approach would be to first put together homes and buildings that were built before 1988 – capturing building construction year. That list is the possible LSLs. From that possible list, you could create a sub-group, generate a list of homes to investigate, and acquire more data points for those homes.
Lower cost strategies include a combination of water profile sampling with some type of visual inspection – either sending someone from your system, or asking a homeowner to do a lead check swab in their own home. Layering information, you can start to get a sense of where public and private lines are.
It may also be a good idea for your system to bring in predictive analytics, generating probabilities for the rest of the service area. 120Water’s LSL probability finder is an example of the type of tool that could assist with this process.
How can systems plan for required 24 hour notices relating to individual AL exceedances, distribution system disturbances?
First off, it’s key to get in front with proactive communication. Explain to the public what you’ve already done so that if you do have an exceedance, your customers understand what it means, have full context, and have been given an explanation about what your process is.
If an exceedance does occur, you’re going to have to treat it as if it were another crisis communications plan or emergency communications plan, such as if you had a major piece of infrastructure fail.
You have to be ready well in advance for this situation to occur and to get information out as quickly and accurately as possible. Be prepared to give perspective as well so you can avoid a public panic.
If systems don’t plan ahead, they’ll risk delivering cold language without context that shakes public confidence in drinking water.
Have all information ready to roll out the moment you have an exceedance. Also, get out front with proactive communication – explain to the public what you’ve already done so if you have an exceedance you can pull back on the explanation you’ve already given to the public.
If you do not have a customer’s email, do you have to call them with the results in order to meet the 24 hour requirement?
Per EPA, standard methods for this communication are media outlets or standard delivery – or a “method approved by a state agency”.
This means your state drinking water agency may have a list of other approved methods. It’s unclear right now exactly which states are taking advantage of the ability to expand the types of notification. We encourage all states to take advantage of the ability to enable more modernized communication – for example, texts, calls, and email. It’s key to empower water systems to communicate in a modern way, and to “layer” communication across many mediums.
Even when modern communication is an option, it’s key to layer. While email is an ideal pathway, water utilities may not have many emails. Layering would mean combining personal communications and impersonal communication, such as 1:1 notifications alongside notifying via traditional and social media.
Schools & Childcare Facility Testing
Who pays for the testing in schools? Who is responsible for the repeat testing?
As written, the utility would pay for the testing – 2 unique taps for childcare facilities and 5 unique taps per school every 5 years.
If results are high, the EPA is not proposing that those results be part of the 90th percentile calculation – it’s about giving utilities and facilities a sense of if corrosion control is working in their building.
Our understanding is that the utility would not have to pay for re-testing.
Are samples in schools supposed to be first flush like the samples from homes?
Yes, they’re recommending a 3Ts approach using first draw samples. Our understanding of the rule is that it would be ok to rely on school staff to collect the samples, just as we do homeowners. Still, utilities will face the same complications getting staff to collect samples as they do with homeowners, especially because they don’t have relationships built or jurisdiction for working those facilities.
Some schools that are bigger or have more resources might want to do more – but it’s key to realize that once you start the testing, you will need to communicate with the public – it will be a news story. Unfortunately, many schools have a chance of finding at least one tap with lead – so you will need to be prepared to communicate when and if that does occur.
How can we create effective communication & coordination with Schools and Daycares?
You do have an ability to get a solid list of the schools and daycares within your service area. Using that information, create proactive outreach campaigns to make sure they have an understanding of their role in the implementation of these revisions.
You have to do the due diligence to explain why this is taking place, teach them about the rule, and assist those who have exceedances and need remediation guidance. Do everything you can to get on the same page with them about how you’ll be communicating around issues, and support them through remediation.
Below are the final thoughts from each of our presenters:
Mike Mcgill, Water PIO:
- Improve proactive communications NOW to build relationships with your customers and make sure they understand LCR.
- Create and test an emergency communications plan to ensure you’re ready for the 24-hour notification rule
Alan Roberson, ASDWA:
- It’s time to take an inventory of your inventory information. Every water system should have a list of their accounts and data surround each customer – what information do you have, and what don’t you have? Understand your starting point so that you can create a plan that sets you up for success.
Erica Walker, 120Water:
- State agencies should lean on resources that currently exist to plan for their LSL inventories, including LSLR Collaborative and the ASDWA LSL Whitepaper
- Think about how you would start an inventory. Reach out to entities that regulate your schools and daycares, and get a list of facilities that might be in your systems to get a sense of what this process is going to look like for your utility,