News Feature | January 2, 2014

EPA Backs Off Restriction Of Lead In Fire Hydrants

By Sara Jerome

firehydrant

The EPA has decided to reconsider a controversial requirement that would force cities to buy new fire hydrants to protect the water supply from lead. 

The agency said it will "revise its guidance on lead in drinking water to exclude fire hydrants. The requirement was set to take effect at the beginning of 2014," Bloomberg reported

The previous proposal, released in October, set off a backlash on Capitol Hill. A bill to undo the rule is going through Congress, and it is getting support from both parties. This month, the House "passed the Community Fire Safety Act, H.R. 3588, in a unanimous 384-0 vote," The Hill reported

The EPA set off a storm of controversy in October when it indicated that its rules to crackdown on lead in drinking water, which will go into effect next year, could force cities to get rid of fire hydrants they had already acquired but had not installed. 

"As a class, hydrants would not qualify for the exclusion for pipes, fittings and fixtures used exclusively for non-potable services," EPA documents previously said. 

But now the agency has a new stance. The EPA said in an e-mailed statement to the Cleveland Plain Dealer that "the guidance should be revised to exclude fire hydrants if Congress doesn’t take action.”

The proposed rule change had emanated from the Reduction of Lead in Drinking Water Act.

"The measure changed the amount of the metal allowed in plumbing components that contact water supplies from 8 percent to a weighted average of 0.25 percent, according to the EPA," Bloomberg previously reported.

Water Online previously reported on the ramifications of this law on the water sector. 

"The clock is ticking, counting down to the new 'lead free' mandate, effective Jan. 4, 2014, which will be considerably stricter than the current federal requirement. Under the Reduction of Lead in Drinking Water Act, signed Jan. 4, 2011, 'lead free' will be redefined as “not more than a weighted average of 0.25% lead when used with respect to the wetted surfaces of pipes, pipe fittings, plumbing fittings, and fixtures,” the report said.

Image credit: “Fire Hydrant," © 2007 david.nikonvscanon, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

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