Posted by: Karin Corbett (firstname.lastname@example.org)
The Reduction of Lead in Drinking Water Act (amending the allowable levels of lead pursuant to the Safe Drinking Water Act) signed into law nearly three years ago and effective January 4, 2014 imposes a "lead-free" mandate across the United States. The Act makes it illegal to sell or install pipes, fittings, valves, and fixtures in applications providing water for human consumption which exceeds the 0.25% weighted average limit for wetted surfaces, as opposed to the 8% weighted average previously permissible. Wetted parts are essentially any product that conveys water anticipated for human consumption including, for example, meters, expansion tanks, backflow preventers, flexible connectors, strainers, and assorted gauges, fittings, and valves.
The Act exempts "pipes, pipe fittings, plumbing fittings, or fixtures, including backflow preventers, that are used exclusively for nonpotable services such as manufacturing, industrial processing, irrigation, outdoor watering, toilets or any other uses where the water is not anticipated to be used for human consumption." The Act does not require the replacement of existing installation, although any repair work to systems may require replacement of at least part of an existing installation.
While many support the Act's reduction in lead materials used in relation to potable water, the Act already has significant implications for manufacturers, retailers, contractors, designers, municipalities and consumers. Primarily, there is a substantial increase in the cost of new lead free materials. Many of the price escalations are between 30% to 40% higher for the alloys currently used. Contractors who have bid on or quoted projects without accounting for the change in material may find themselves dealing with a large price differential; and contractors who have planned for the increase will be passing the increased cost to the consumer.