Public Water System Compliance with Revised Lead and Copper Rule, Lead Poisoning Prevention Act
This webpage contains information about requirements for public water systems. If you are concerned about lead in your drinking water, visit Lead Contamination of Water.
Laws and Regulations for Rhode Island Public Water Systems
Public water systems must meet the requirement of federal rules and state laws related to addressing lead in drinking water. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) established the Lead and Copper Rule (LCR) in 1991 to protect public health and reduce exposure to lead in drinking water. In 2021, EPA published a revision to the LCR called the Revised Lead and Copper Rule (LCRR). In 2023, amendments to the Rhode Island Lead Poisoning Prevention Act (LPPA), went into effect and established additional requirements. The LCRR and LPPA focus on identifying the areas most impacted by lead in drinking water and on replacing lead service lines.
On December 6, 2023, the EPA proposed a new rule—the Lead and Copper Rule Improvements (LCRI)—that, when finalized, may change certain requirements and deadlines in the LCRR. EPA has said it expects to publish the final LCRI before October 16, 2024. More information about the LCRI can be found on EPA’s LCRI webpage. The Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) is developing guidance for PWSs on how the LPPA and the LCRR will be implemented. RIDOH is awaiting further information from EPA on the LCRI, which may impact RIDOH’s regulatory implementation plan. Please look out for additional guidance from RIDOH in the form of direct communications and updates to this website.
Service Line Inventory & Replacement Requirements
There are several required actions for public water systems (PWS) under the lead laws and regulations, including developing a service line inventory, inspecting private side service lines, notifying customers and providing filters when lead service lines are disturbed, and submitting an annual report. Please read this section carefully to understand the different requirements. Please note: PWSs must submit an initial service line inventory to RIDOH by October 16, 2024.
In January 2024, RIDOH sent a letter to PWSs containing information about the requirements under LCRR and LPPA. You can review that letter here.
PWSs must develop an inventory to identify the materials of and classify all public and private side service lines connected to the public water distribution system. PWSs must submit their inventories to RIDOH by October 16, 2024. Once inventories are completed, PWSs will need to develop lead service line replacement plans.
RIDOH has prepared an inventory template that incorporates Rhode Island's requirements in addition to EPA's requirements, available at the link below. PWSs may submit inventories using the RIDOH inventory template or another method that has been approved by RIDOH.
It is important to note that Rhode Island and EPA differ on how galvanized service lines should be classified. Rhode Island’s LPPA is stricter than EPA’s LCRR in how it classifies galvanized service lines as lead lines and omits the “galvanized requiring replacement” classification. RIDOH encourages systems to classify its service lines according to both the LCRR and LPPA requirements and to identify the specific material (e.g., copper, plastic, galvanized iron, etc.) of all components of the service lines. Doing so will help the PWS if and when seeking DWSRF funding for replacement of its service lines.
Because the Rhode Island LPPA’s classification requirements are stricter than EPA’s LCRR requirements, PWSs are required to classify service lines according to Rhode Island’s classification standards. If a PWS seeks funding from certain federal pots of money, the PWS will also need to classify its service lines following EPA’s specific classification requirements as further detailed below. RIDOH has created an inventory template that includes two columns for classifying service lines: (1) a "RI Service Line Material Classification" column, and (2) an "EPA Service Line Classification" column. RIDOH encourages PWSs to use this template.
Under the LPPA, PWSs must classify their service lines into one of three categories: lead, non-lead, or lead status unknown. In Rhode Island all galvanized service lines must be classified as lead service lines, with two exceptions. The PWS can classify a galvanized service line as “non-lead” if it can demonstrate that any part of the line is not and was never downstream of a lead service line and is not currently downstream of an unknown service line (i.e., that the galvanized line is not “galvanized requiring replacement”); or it can classify a galvanized service line as “lead status unknown” if applicable.
In contrast, under the LCRR, systems must classify their service lines into one of four categories: lead, galvanized requiring replacement, non-lead, or lead status unknown. Though "galvanized requiring replacement" is not a required classification in Rhode Island, knowing whether a service line is "galvanized requiring replacement" is necessary if a system seeks funding for the replacement of galvanized service lines or components under certain DWSRF sources. Under the LCRR, a galvanized service line must be classified as "galvanized requiring replacement" if it is or was at any time downstream of a lead service line or is currently downstream of a lead status unknown service line. By contrast, under Rhode Island’s LPPA, such a line would be classified as “lead.”
Service Line Inventory Guidance and Resources
Guidance documentation (by PWS size) prepared by EPA are available at the links below. Please note that these federal materials are based on the requirements of the LCRR and do not address Rhode Island-specific requirements. More information about inventories will be distributed directly to PWSs and added to this webpage as it becomes available.
Customer Notice of Lead Service Line Discovery or Disturbance
PWSs must send written notification to property owners and the tenants of a building within 30 days of identifying a public or private side lead service line or lead status unknown service line that supplies drinking water to their building or dwelling. To reach both the property owner and any tenants of the building, the PWS must send the notification to the billing address (to inform the property owner) of the building, as well as all mailing addresses at the building (to reach every unit at the address). The PWS must also send a copy of each notification to RIDOH within the same 30-day deadline. PWSs are strongly encouraged to use the template notification RIDOH developed, which includes all of the elements required by LPPA. If the PWS’s community speaks a language other than English or Spanish, the PWS should seek translation services to provide the notice in the appropriate language(s).
At this time, RIDOH is not requiring systems that previously detected lead service lines or lead status unknown service lines prior to the LPPA’s effective date of June 24, 2023, to send notifications. However, PWSs should be aware that the LCRR requires a similar notification to consumers within 30 days of completion of the required inventory and a repeat notice every year thereafter; assuming the LCRI does not change that requirement, PWSs should be prepared to comply with it. Additional information will be made available in the coming months.
PWSs that have identified a public or private lead service line or lead status unknown service line must provide to the consumer, upon request, a filter pitcher or point-of-use device certified by an American National Standards Institute accredited certifier to reduce lead, instructions to use the filter, and six months of filter replacement cartridges. Filters that are certified to comply with NSF Standard 53 for the removal of lead will meet the certification requirement. Before distributing any filters to consumers, PWSs must get approval from RIDOH for the type of filter the PWS intends to provide. PWSs may send an email attaching the filter’s specifications, including the appropriate certification, to RIDOH at DOH.RIDWQ@health.ri.gov with “Service Line Inventory” in the subject line.
Private Side Service Line Inspection
PWSs that have detected a lead service line or lead status unknown service line must inspect the private side service lines, at no cost to the property owner, to determine if lead, galvanized iron, or steel is present. If lead is detected in a private side service line, the lead service line must be replaced. If funding for replacement projects is available, all lead service lines must be replaced over the next 10 years.
It may be helpful to notify customers before private side service line inspections occur. RIDOH has created a sample letter that PWSs can use to notify their consumers of the inventory and the potential need for the PWSs to enter buildings to complete service line inspections. Bracketed text indicates areas where PWSs should enter their information and the details of how they plan to proceed with the inventory inspections. Distribute a copy of the Daily Water Pipe Care factsheet with the letter. The use of this letter is voluntary.
After inventories are completed, PWSs that have identified lead service lines or lead status unknown service lines must develop and submit lead service replacement plans to RIDOH in accordance with the LCRR and LPPA. RIDOH will have more guidance on the required deadline and contents of the replacement plans after EPA promulgates the LCRI.
Consumer Notice Requirements
If a property owner refuses to allow an inspection or replacement of private side service lines, PWS must notify all occupants of the address. PWSs must also notify RIDOH by sending a completed refusal form to RIDOH attesting that two attempts were made and that notice was distributed to all occupants of the address. RIDOH prepared template notifications for occupants in English and Spanish with all required elements of the LPPA. PWSs are strongly encouraged to use the templates which are linked below. If the PWS’s community speaks a language other than English or Spanish, the PWS should seek translation services to provide the notice in the appropriate language(s).
Under the LCRR, after any disturbance to a lead service line or lead status unknown service line or after any partial or full replacement of such service lines, PWSs must notify affected consumers. RIDOH will follow up with additional guidance on notification requirements and with template notifications when available. Before the affected service line is returned to service, PWSs must also provide consumers with a filter pitcher or point-of-use device certified by an American National Standards Institute accredited certifier to reduce lead, instructions to use the filter, and 6 months of filter replacement cartridges. Before distributing any filters to consumers, PWSs must get approval from RIDOH for the type of filter the PWS intends to provide. PWSs may send an email attaching the filter’s specifications, including the appropriate certification, to RIDOH at DOH.RIDWQ@health.ri.gov with “Service Line Inventory” in the subject line.
PWSs must submit updated inventories to RIDOH annually to show adjusted service line counts due to verified service line types and lead line replacements. PWSs that have demonstrated the absence of lead service lines will not be required to provide updated inventories, unless lead or lead status unknown service lines are discovered after the initial inventory.
PWSs must also submit an annual report with information about their service line inventories and replacement statuses to the Governor, the President of the Rhode Island State Senate, the Speaker of the Rhode Island House of Representatives, the Director of RIDOH, and the Executive Director of the Rhode Island Infrastructure Bank. Starting in 2024, the annual report will be due within 90 days of the end of each fiscal year (June 30). PWSs that have not begun inventory and replacement work can voluntarily submit a report for the year 2023 indicating that they are in the process of planning for future work.
RIDOH is contracting with a technical assistance provider that has expertise in LCRR compliance and specialized experience in service line inventory and lead service line replacement plan development. The provider will be available to PWSs that need assistance with developing their inventories, reporting, and creating their lead service line replacement plan at no cost to the PWSs.
The information sheets linked below can be used as inserts to consumer notice about lead service line discoveries, disturbances, or inspection or replacement refusals.
Eligible PWSs will be able to apply for funding through the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF) for service line inventory development. Funding is also available for lead service line replacement through the DWSRF.
In order to receive funding through the DWSRF for a project, PWSs must apply to have the project added to the RIDOH Project Priority List (PPL) by March 2024. Every year, RIDOH sends a letter to PWSs eligible for the PPL. For PPL applications and more information about DWSRF, you can visit the DWSRF webpage or contact the Center for Drinking Water Quality by emailing DOH.RIDWQ@health.ri.gov (please put “DWSRF” in the subject line) or calling 401-222-6867.
PWSs that serve a population of less than 10,000 people should consider the DWSRF as a funding source even for relatively small projects. If it is determined that the PWS is economically disadvantaged, then subsidies such as lower interest rates, zero interest rates, and/or additional forgiveness may be available.
Another possible source of funding is the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) Act’s Small, Underserved, and Disadvantaged Communities grant. For grant details, please visit the EPA’s grant webpage.
If you have questions about any of the matters on this webpage, please refer to the letter distributed in January 2024. For additional information, contact the Center for Drinking Water Quality by emailing DOH.RIDWQ@health.ri.gov (please put “Service Line Inventory” in the subject line) or calling 401-222-6867.
Service Line Types, Ownership, and Verification
Use the following definitions to describe service lines in the service line inventory and replacement planning:
Lead service lines are broadly defined as any part of a public or private service line that is made of, lined with, or contains materials consisting of lead, and importantly, includes service lines with galvanized steel or iron.
Galvanized refers to iron or steel piping that has been dipped in zinc to prevent corrosion or rusting.
Galvanized requiring replacement refers to galvanized service lines that are or were at any time downstream of a lead service line or are currently downstream of a lead status unknown service line. See the Classifying Service Lines section under Service Line Inventory Due by October 16, 2024 tab, for more on galvanized requiring replacement service lines.
Non-lead refers to service lines that are determined through an evidence-based record, method, or technique not to be lead or galvanized requiring replacement.
Lead status unknown refers to the designation given to service lines where the service line material is not known to be lead, galvanized requiring replacement, or a non-lead service line. A service line must be classified as lead status unknown if there is no documented evidence supporting material classification or if a non-lead determination cannot be made. Under the LPPA, service lines that are “lead status unknown” will be considered lead service lines.
Service line ownership is often split between the PWS or municipality and the owner of the building that receives the water. A service line is comprised of several parts, which may be made of different materials, between the distribution main and building plumbing. Service lines are usually divided in two segments, the segment owned by the PWS (often referred to as the public side), and the segment owned by the customer (often referred to as the private side).
See the image below for an example of the service line components. Service line parts include:
Connector from a distribution main. This could be or include a lead “gooseneck” or “pigtail” and is less than 2 feet in length.
Public side portion of the line
Curb stop and/or shutoff valve
Private side portion of the line
Connector into the building. This may include a lead pipe segment.
PWS may use partial inventories or other records to inform their inventory. For locations where the material of service lines is not known, PWS can incorporate verifying the service line into day-to-day operations, such as completing visual service line inspections alongside planned meter work. The following methods can be used to determine whether service lines are made from lead.
Any information already known about the material of service lines such as PWS, construction, and plumbing codes records.
Historical building records and other data available from American Water Works Association or other research groups.
Visual inspection during planned maintenance such as backflow prevention inspections or meter, service line, or main repairs or replacements.
Comments, complaints, and other input from customers in the service area that PWS receives through solicitation such as a survey form.
Other procedures and resources that are available to the PWS, if approved by RIDOH.