The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is issuing guidance for the states that helps to clarify how the collection and management of lead and copper samples is conducted to carry out regulations that control lead in drinking water.

“This guidance is the direct result of working with our national drinking water partners to provide clarity on critical elements in implementing our regulations that help safeguard the public's drinking water,” says Ben Grumbles, acting assistant administrator for water. “We will determine if the lead rule needs additional guidance or some targeted changes.”

In 2004, the EPA discovered lead levels in certain cities across the country that prompted a review of how the lead and copper rule was being implemented. EPA collected and evaluated data that it requested from the states and, as part of this ongoing review, the agency convened national expert workshops on monitoring, lead service line replacement, public education and compliance. The guidance issued comes as a result of information gathered at those workshops.

Key elements of the guidance issued:

  • what is a proper sample

  • what samples are used to calculate the 90th percentile concentration (which is the basis for determining if water suppliers need to take action)

  • how to manage sampling programs

  • what states should do with samples that are taken outside of a specific compliance time frame

  • what states should do if the minimum number of samples are not collected

  • how utilities can avoid sampling problems

  • on what basis a sample should be invalidated

EPA will continue its review to help determine whether additional guidance or training is needed and whether changes may be needed to parts of the regulation.