A new bill introduced Thursday by U.S. Sens. Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Ben Cardin (D-MD) would require the Environmental Protection Agency to improve the testing, monitoring and reporting of the nation's drinking water. The proposed legislation, the Copper and Lead Evaluation, Assessment and Reporting Act of 2016 (CLEAR Act), comes on the heels of the ongoing drinking water crisis in Flint, Michigan, where lead levels are high following a decision by local officials to switch the town's water supply source as a cost-saving measure.
"A recent Chicago Tribune report highlighted the risks that aging water infrastructure can pose to residents of cities like Chicago where nearly 80% of homes are connected to pipes that contain lead," Durbin said via press release Thursday. "The crisis in Flint has brought national attention to the threat of elevated levels of lead in drinking water and the danger that can be to children and families if left untreated. The CLEAR Act focuses on common sense reforms to give Americans more information about the safety of their drinking water."
The CLEAR Act would springboard off recommendations issued last December by the National Drinking Water Advisory Council, which called for long-term changes to the EPA's standards for copper and lead in the drinking water supply. The recommendations include:
- Establishing a health-based, household action level that triggers a report to the consumer and to the applicable health agency for follow-up.
- Adding targeted outreach to consumers with lead service lines and other vulnerable populations and their caregivers/healthcare providers.
- Encouraging public accountability through better online reporting from utilities to the public.
- Requiring public water systems to provide a public statement of lead service line ownership where a community has lead service lines.
- Modifying monitoring requirements to provide for voluntary, consumer-requested tap samples for lead.
- Utilizing results of tap samples for lead to inform consumer action to reduce the risks in their homes. Informing the appropriate health agency when results are above a designated household action level.
- Assessing the effectiveness of corrosion control treatment or other reasons for elevated lead results.
"No one in America should be without access to safe drinking water. But when that safety is threatened, the challenge can often be identifying the impacted areas and immediately informing residents," said Durbin. "The CLEAR Act should help make that process easier."