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Data Show Small Percentage of Drinking Water Systems Exceed Lead Action Level

Release Date: 06/23/2004
Contact Information:

Contact: Cathy Milbourn 202-564-7824/

(06/23/04) Since 2000, fewer than 4 percent of large- and medium-sized drinking water systems have exceeded EPA’s lead action level, according to information gathered by the Agency and available online. The information represents lead monitoring conducted by 89 percent of the nation’s large and medium drinking water systems. Together these systems serve more than 200 million people. In the United States, there are 834 large water systems, which serve more than 50,000 people, and 7,833 medium systems that serve 3,300 - 50,000 people. Under EPA regulations, drinking water utilities sample water for lead from a representative cross-section of customers. If customer tap samples from more than 10 percent of the homes served by a single system exceed the15 parts per billion (ppb) action level for lead, the utility must control corrosion, increase monitoring, educate the public and, in some cases, replace lead service lines. The data received to date show that 12 large and 73 medium systems exceeded the 15 ppb lead action level in monitoring periods concluded after 2003. Since 2000, 27 large and 237 medium systems have exceeded the action level in one or more monitoring periods. The data received to date show that fewer than 4 percent of water systems have exceeded the lead action level since 2000.

EPA is conducting a review of how the national primary drinking water regulation for lead is implemented nationwide in response to elevated levels of lead in Washington, D.C. drinking water. Part of this will be to determine if the problems found in the District reflect those happening nationally. There are approximately 53,000 community water systems in the United States. EPA is continuing to collect lead-monitoring information and will update its findings throughout the summer. A summary of the findings for large and medium systems and related data is available on EPA’s Web site at: .