Academic journal article Journal of Environmental Health

The Influence of an Educational Fact Sheet on Small System Water Supplier Attitudes toward the Lead and Copper Rule

Academic journal article Journal of Environmental Health

The Influence of an Educational Fact Sheet on Small System Water Supplier Attitudes toward the Lead and Copper Rule

Article excerpt

In May 1991, the EPA established the lead and copper rule (1). The purpose of this new environmental regulation is to reduce lead and copper in drinking water and to inhibit corrosion of water distribution pipes. This new rule requirement is due to the findings of several studies regarding the widespread and adverse health impact that ingested lead and copper can have on children and adults.

Lead is widely used in drinking water distribution systems and in household plumbing systems. Nationally, there are approximately 4 million lead service line pipes in use (2) and Detroit has approximately 100,000 lead service lines in use which constitutes one-third of the service lines (3). Lead pipes were used because they are very corrosion resistant due to the lead carbonate film that forms on pipe surfaces. Unfortunately, the water used can result in increased solubility of the lead carbonate and increased leaching (extraction and dissolution) of lead into the water via corrosion. Lead alloys were also widely used, until 1986, as solder because of their low melting point.

The sources and causes of lead in drinking water are varied. The primary sources of lead in the drinking water system are the source water treated by the drinking water plant, the lead service lines throughout the distribution system, and the lead solder used to weld pipe joints and make repairs. It is the lead solder that is primarily responsible for the high lead levels in drinking water (4). Lead leaching into drinking water results from corrosive water flowing through the system and/or galvanic reactions (5). Corrosive water is water that has an acidic pH and a low calcium concentration. Corrosive water prevents a film deposition of the chemical calcium carbonate from forming on the piping surface. This chemical inhibits chemical reactions that cause lead to be released into the drinking water. The galvanic reaction, on the other hand, results from a chemical reaction between the copper and lead connection due to their different chemical properties.

The 1986 amendments to the Safe Drinking Water Act prohibited the use of lead solder constituting more than 0.2 percent lead and the use of piping constituting greater than 8 percent lead in public water systems and household plumbing (5). The lead and copper rule initiates a program to reduce lead levels in drinking water by removing it from source water, requiring conditions to reduce corrosion, educating consumers, and removing lead service lines if necessary (1). It requires water companies to use consumer's first draw tap water samples as an indicator of the lead concentration in drinking water. If the level of lead is above 15 ppb in more than 10 percent of consumer tap water samples, then the water company is required to implement a strategy to bring levels below this amount.

The objectives of this study were to determine whether the receipt of factual information about 1) lead poisoning and 2) the EPA's lead and copper rule would influence the attitudes of State of Michigan small system water suppliers toward the rule. Small water supply systems constitute 24 percent of the community systems (systems that serve residents who use the water almost every day over a long period of time) (6). These community systems constitute 29 percent of the approximately 200,000 public water supply systems in the United States and serve 90 percent of the population. Of this population, 19.3 million people (8.5 percent) are served by small water supply systems.


This study mail surveyed all small community supply systems, e.g. townships, villages, and cities, and about 2 percent of the small non-transient non-community supply systems which included schools, hospitals, and prisons in the State of Michigan resulting in a sample size of 802 water suppliers. The community supply systems are the primary focus in this study because their customers use the water every day over an extended period of time. …

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