CalPIRG Lead and Copper Rule GTLOC Letter to CA State Water Resources Control Board - Jan. 18, 2018

In January 2018 the Oakland Get the Lead Out Coalition continued to build on existing momentum and grow to regularly submit letters of recommendation regarding lead in drinking water policy change.

Here is a letter the Oakland GTLOC and CA state level GTLOC signed urging law makers to increase protection for safe drinking water.

And here is the letter content:

Board Chair Felicia Marcus
State Water Resources Control Board
1001 I Street
Sacramento, CA 95814

Dear Board Chair Felicia Marcus,

On behalf of the undersigned organizations, we are writing out of our deep concern about
lead in drinking water and its impact on children's health and development. The current
requirements of the Lead and Copper Rule are not strong enough to protect the most
vulnerable in our communities from this serious threat to their health. Nor do we have any
expectation that the update to the federal rule currently being considered will address our
concerns. We urge you to initiate a process to update and revise the Rule, including the
development and adoption of a health-based standard for lead in drinking water in

The Flint water crisis put the issue of lead in drinking water into the public consciousness
like never before. And since then, new tests have shown problems with lead in drinking
water in California, particularly at schools. Just this year, tests have revealed lead-tainted
drinking water at elementary and middle schools in counties throughout California,
including Sacramento, Alameda, San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Bernardino, and San Diego.

This is deeply concerning because even small exposures to lead can cause permanent
damage to children's cognitive development. Recent research shows that, even at blood
levels lower than 5 micrograms per deciliter, lead can still cause diminished intellectual
and academic abilities, higher rates of neurobehavioral disorders such as ADHD, and poor
growth in children.1 The American Academy of Pediatrics estimates that 24 million
children will lose IQ points because of exposure to low levels of lead.2 That's why
pediatricians across the country stress that there is no safe level of lead for our children.3

The action level established under the EPA's Lead and Copper Rule – 15 parts per billion –
does not protect children's health. In fact, it is not a health-based standard at all. As you
know, the 15 ppb action level is a technical threshold that water districts must use to
determine when to initiate system-wide corrosion control treatment. As EPA
acknowledges, the 15 ppb action level was never intended as a health-based standard.4

Recently, the American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended a standard of 1 part per
billion for lead in school drinking water.5 And California’s own health department, OEHHA,
has set the public health goal for lead in drinking water at 0.2 parts per billion.6

In addition, we believe it is critical to set a strong standard for lead in drinking water to
provide a basis for comprehensive lead water testing that provides health-relevant
information. Testing protocols designed around compliance with the Lead and Copper
Rule have been shown to be inadequate to prevent unsafe lead exposures.7 Because of the
inherent variability of lead water testing, testing, even when properly done, can fail to
determine whether water from a particular tap will be free of lead the next time a child
drinks from it. The reason is that lead particles do not break off of pipes at a constant rate
over time. Rather, lead leaching is a highly variable process. Consequently, multiple water
tests from one outlet can show a wide variation of lead levels between samples.8

7 Katner Adrienne, Pieper Kelsey J., Lambrinidou Yanna, Brown K omal, Hu Chih-Yang, Mielke Howard W., andEdwards Marc A.. Environmental Justice. August 2016, 9(4): 109-

Given the challenges with testing, we think that a review of the entire rule is also
warranted, starting with what constitutes an exceedance, how the public is notified and
when, and how much sampling is required. The results of school testing done over the past
year convince us that recurring testing at the same sites (as required by the federal rule)
fails to identify problems and protect vulnerable populations. The state could comply with
the federal rule while also requiring additional testing at sensitive locations such as
schools and licensed childcare sites. We think expanding the number of samples required is
also warranted, particularly in large systems that have older housing stock. While
exceedances from 10% of taps tested may be an appropriate trigger for determining a
violation, the very small number of taps tested (as little as 50 for a system with hundreds of
thousands of connections) significantly reduces that likelihood that an exceedance will be
discovered. Expanding the number of samples taken will allow regular rotation among
sampling sites.

In light of these determinations, we believe that the State Water Board should move
forward and revise the Lead and Copper Rule, including the development and adoption of a
health-based standard for lead in drinking water. We urge you to initiate the rulemaking
process for this revision by April 2018.

We thank you for your attention to this matter and hope to work with you to develop a
California standard for lead in drinking water that will truly protect the most vulnerable in
our communities from this serious threat to their health.


1. Emily Rusch, Executive Director, CALPIRG
2. Miriam Rotkin-Ellman MPH, Senior Scientist, Natural Resources Defense Council
3. Bill Allayaud, California Director of Government Affairs, Environmental Working
4. Harold Goldstein, Executive Director, Public Health Advocates
5. Rebecca Spector, West Coast Director, Center for Food Safety
6. Jim Lindburg, Legislative Director, Friends Committee on Legislation of California
7. Michelle Romero, Deputy Director, Green For All
8. Dr. Vicki Alexander, Founder, Healthy Black Families, Inc.
9. Stephanie Hayden, Co-Founder, SmartOakland
10. Dan Jacobson, State Director, Environment California
11. Jennifer Clary, Water Program Manager, Clean Water Action