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MPCA Schedules Regional Meetings to Discuss 2014 Draft Impaired Waters List

AWWA Releases Cost-Impact Study of Upcoming USEPA Perchlorate Regulations

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Fire Hydrants Subject to Reduction of Lead in Drinking Water Act

USEPAThe new Reduction of Lead in Drinking Water Act goes into effect in the United States on January 4, 2014. The amendments included in the federal law revise the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) definition of "lead free" for piping, pipe fittings, plumbing fittings, and fixtures. The amendments reduce the lead limit from eight percent to 0.25 percent for brass and bronze. The limit for solder and flux will remain at 0.2 percent. The federal law applies to the wetted surfaces of any product used in a drinking water system. The new requirement will require suppliers, contractors, the engineering community, and water utilities to revise specifications for no-lead brass plumbing fittings and components such as curb stops, meters, regulators, check valves, and now fire hydrants.

Many municipalities and industry organizations were caught off guard by the USEPA's interpretation of the law with regards to fire hydrants. The answer to question five of the USEPA's frequently asked questions about the lead-free law expresses, "Information available to EPA indicates that fire hydrants can be, and are, used in emergency situations to provide drinking water when there are disruptions to the normal operations of the drinking water distribution system. Therefore, as a class, hydrants would not qualify for the exclusion for pipes, fittings, and fixtures used exclusively for nonpotable services." The USEPA's interpretation of the hydrant portion of the law was released only two months before the January 4 deadline.

The American Water Works Association, Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies, and the National Association of Water Companies have been lobbying for changes to the USEPA's interpretation of the law. In early November, the group sent joint letters to the Director of the USEPA's Office of Ground Water and Drinking Water, and the Chairpersons and ranking members of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works and the House Committee on Energy and Commerce regarding the USEPA's stance on fire hydrants. The letter states concerns about the looming deadline and says in part, "Applying this act to fire hydrants - particularly with such short notice - represents a massive investment of time and resources for little if any discernable public health benefit. We do not believe this interpretation of the law is what you intended." The letter also requests the USEPA hold off on the hydrant portion of the law for the time being because public and private utilities, manufacturers, and distributors had three years to prepare to be in compliance with the rest of the law's requirements.

As a result of these lobbying efforts, U.S. Representatives Bill Johnson (R-Ohio) and Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.) have introduced a bill called the "Community Fire Safety Act of 2013" that would exempt fire hydrants from compliance with the Reduction of Lead in Drinking Water Act. If passed, fire hydrants would be added to the list of exempted fixtures under the Reduction of Lead Act and USEPA would direct its National Drinking Water Advisory Council to study potential changes to the Lead and Copper Rule and to study lead exposure throughout drinking water distribution systems, “including through components used to reroute drinking water during distribution system repairs.” The bill has been referred to the House's Committee on Energy and Commerce.

The Update will report whether the USEPA decides to move forward with or hold off on implementing the fire hydrant portion of the the Reduction of Lead in Drinking Water Act. If you have questions or concerns about compliance, contact AE2S Drinking Water Manager, Deon Stockert, PE, at 701-225-9636.

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please contact Heather Syverson at 701-364-9111 or Heather.Syverson@ae2s.com.
 
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