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Lead Regulations

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Lead in Paint, Dust and Soil

Title IV of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), as well as other authorities in the Residential Lead-Based Paint Hazard Reduction Act of 1992, directs EPA to regulate lead-based paint hazards. Read about EPA regulations on lead in paint, dust and soil.

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Lead in Water

Lead in water is regulated under both the Clean Water Act and Safe Drinking Water Act.

Clean Water Act

Direct Discharges of Lead into Water

The CWA prohibits anyone from discharging pollutants, including lead, through a point source into a water of the United States unless they have a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit. NPDES permits contain limits on what you can discharge, monitoring and reporting requirements, and other provisions to ensure that the discharge does not hurt water quality or people's health. As appropriate, NPDES permits must contain:

  • Technology-Based Effluent Limitation Guidelines: Effluent guidelines are technology-based regulations to control industrial wastewater discharges. The guidelines are based on the performance of treatment and control technologies. Currently, EPA has issued 19 industry effluent guideline regulations that contain a limit for lead discharges.
  • Water Quality-Based Effluent Limitations (WQBELs): A WQBEL is a value determined by selecting the most stringent of the effluent limits calculated using all applicable state ambient water quality criteria (e.g., aquatic life, human health, and wildlife) for a specific point source to a specific receiving water for a given pollutant. As part of their water quality standards regulations, states and authorized tribes adopt ambient water quality criteria with sufficient coverage of parameters, such as lead, and of adequate stringency to protect the designated uses of their surface waters. In adopting criteria, states and tribes may:

States and tribes typically adopt both numeric and narrative criteria.

Pretreatment Standards and Limits

In addition to direct discharges, wastewaters may be indirectly discharged into waters of the U.S.

  • Through sewer systems connected to publicly owned treatment works (POTW) that discharge directly to waters of the U.S. or
  • By being introduced by truck or rail into a POTW that discharges directly.

Typically pretreatment standards are applied to industrial users by the POTW under pretreatment permits.

  • Prohibited Discharge Standards: The CWA requires EPA to promulgate federal standards for the pretreatment of wastewater introduced to a POTW that interferes with, passes through, or is otherwise incompatible with POTW operations. Section 307(d) of the CWA then prohibits discharge in violation of any pretreatment standard. EPA has promulgated regulations that establish national pretreatment standards that include general and specific prohibitions on the introduction of certain pollutants into POTWs.
  • Categorical Pretreatment Standards: Categorical Pretreatment Standards limit the pollutant discharges to POTWs from specific process wastewaters of particular industrial categories. Categorical Pretreatment Standards are technology-based regulations to control industrial wastewater discharges, which apply regardless of whether or not the POTW has an approved pretreatment program or the industrial user has been issued a control mechanism or permit. Currently, EPA has issued 15 categorical pretreatment standards that contain a limit for lead discharges.
  • Local Limits: In addition to EPA's national pretreatment standards, POTW pretreatment programs must develop local limits or demonstrate that they are unnecessary. EPA has identified lead as one of 15 pollutants often found in POTW sludge and effluent that it considers a potential pollutant of concern. EPA recommends that each POTW, at a minimum, screen for the presence of these pollutants. For additional information, please see Chapter 3 of EPA's Local Limits Development Guidance, July 2004 (EPA-833-R-04-002A) (PDF) (134 pp, 2.3MB ).

In addition to being discharged through sewer systems connected to POTWs, wastewater may also be disposed of at centralized waste treatment facilities. Technology-based standards for centralized waste treatment facilities can be found at 40 CFR Part 437.

Safe Drinking Water Act

Lead in drinking water is regulated under the Lead and Copper Rule.

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Lead in Air

Lead in the air is regulated two ways under the Clean Air Act:

Under the lead NAAQS, EPA limits how much lead there can be in the ambient (outdoor) air. EPA specifies requirements for the siting of monitoring stations to ensure compliance with the NAAQS. EPA also publishes guidelines for state, local and tribal permitting authorities to guide development of NAAQS state implementation plans (SIPs). In addition, EPA’s New Source Review permitting programs require any large new or modified stationary source to get a permit before it begins construction.

EPA also regulates lead as a toxic air pollutant by limiting the emissions that come from some industrial sources. The regulations that limit toxic air pollutant emissions are called National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants, or NESHAPs. Two regulations that focus on limiting lead emissions are the NESHAPs for Primary Lead Smelting and Secondary Lead Smelting. Other NESHAPs control lead that is emitted along with other toxic air pollutants.

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Lead Waste and Cleanup

Several EPA programs address the disposal and cleanup of lead waste.

In addition, EPA's waste disposal and cleanup programs often involve sites contaminated with lead.

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