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Friday, December 13, 2013

Lead reduction law will change the industry as of January 2014

Lead contamination is lowered via the Reduction of Lead in Drinking Water Act
New water law protects consumers
By Sean Thomas

A new law altering the requirements of the Safe Drinking Water Act will take effect on January 4th making it necessary for utilities, manufacturers, and distributors to make sure their plumbing and pipe fixtures are virtually lead-free.

Reduction of Lead in Drinking Water Act

President Obama signed the “Reduction of Lead in Drinking Water Act” in 2011 which revised the definition of “lead-free” so that all products in contact with drinking water must contain a maximum of 0.25% lead content. This new national law is similar to California’s regulations regarding lead in drinking water and will require all states to follow the same guidelines.

The change in the law will affect those involved in the water and plumbing industry by making all current waterworks brass obsolete. Many products will no longer meet the requirements and cannot be installed or sold after January.

The effects

The products affected by the law include meters, pumps, valves, pipes, fittings, fixtures and anything else that comes into contact with a drinking water supply. Some products and components may already be compliant but all those that do not meet the new lead-free standard will have to be removed.

Those in the industry will need to plan ahead to meet the requirements of the law by identifying which products are noncompliant and having them discarded or recycled. They will also need to begin ordering lead-free replacements by the deadline.

State compliance

California and a handful of other states have already passed laws requiring essentially lead-free products for drinking water including Louisiana, Maryland and Vermont. The new federal changes some of the wording used in the earlier legislation which could have a significant effect on the way the law is interpreted.

The lead-free law in California did not apply to products “not intended” for potable use but the federal law changes the wording to products “not anticipated” for potable water applications. This new wording can make it harder for those in the industry to determine what products must be included.

A number of products not intended for drinking water could be anticipated to be used for potable water such as a garden hose or a fire hydrant. The changing of the law could cause a lot of problems and potential lawsuits based on which products are chosen to be exemptions from the lead-free rule.

Exceptions to the rule?

The alterations of the existing Safe Water Drinking Act will be one of the biggest changes the industry has seen because it affects not only utilities but manufacturers, suppliers and distributers as well. Suppliers will need to start separating the inventory they have to identify which products comply with the law’s new definition of lead-free.

At the same time they must also build up their lead-free products and continue ordering them for a greater inventory that is up to code. This change can be difficult financially since lead-free products are typically more expensive than the average leaded version. In spite of the cost, suppliers will need to be well-stocked with products that meet the new standard and make a significant reduction in items that do not meet the lead-free guidelines.

About the author: Sean Thomas is a Certified Backflow Prevention Specialist at Simply Backflow.  Sean is board certified and state certified in the repair and implementation of backflow prevention devices.

Image license: Richard Webb, CC BY-SA 2.0