The Environmental Protection Agency is preparing to overhaul the way communities test their water for lead, a policy change that will be pitched ahead of Election Day as a major environmental achievement for a president not noted for his conservation record.
But a draft of the final rule obtained by The New York Times shows the E.P.A. rejected the recommendation of top medical and scientific experts who urged the agency to require the replacement of the country’s six million to 10 million lead service lines, an expensive but effective way to avoid crises like the one still afflicting Flint, Mich.
The measure is the first major update in nearly three decades to the 1991 Lead and Copper Rule, a regulation aimed at protecting drinking water from lead, a potent neurotoxin that has been linked to developmental problems in children. The American Academy of Pediatrics and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have said there is no safe level of lead exposure for children, and the new rule requires for the first time testing for lead in all schools and day care centers.
“The rule will better identify high levels of lead, improve the reliability of lead tap sampling results, strengthen corrosion control treatment requirements, expand consumer awareness and improve risk communication,” the draft from mid-July said.
Still, beyond internal debates among state and local officials, the new lead rule is unlikely to burnish the president’s image, political strategists say. Mr. Trump’s environmental record has been a rallying cry for some voters because he has relentlessly pushed to dismantle measures to control air and water pollution while mocking and dismissing climate change.
In recent weeks, however, he has sought a remarkable rebranding, even describing himself as the most environmentally friendly president since Theodore Roosevelt. In Jupiter, Fla., this month, he endorsed a 10-year moratorium on oil and gas drilling off the Southeast coast. His administration is the one that proposed lifting the moratorium in the first place.
Republican strategists said Mr. Trump’s campaign might be trying to improve his standing among suburban women and other swing voters. But they also doubted it would pay off.
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