News Feature | November 27, 2013

EPA Lead Regulations Stall Fire Hydrant Installation

By Sara Jerome


Cities across the county have stopped installing fire hydrants because federal regulators say they could contaminate water with lead. 

These cities "face the specter of hundreds of millions of dollars in useless hydrants after a surprise ruling last month by the EPA that requires fireplugs put in after Jan. 4 meet stricter standards for lead content," according to Bloomberg, which cited water industry officials. "That means cities must scrap or retrofit inventory or buy hydrants and parts that some vendors aren’t even making yet."

The American Water Works Association is lobbing the EPA on this issue, according to Bloomberg. The group is "urging the agency to reconsider or at least allow more time to comply," the report said. 

“This delivers a huge cost and probably no health protection,” said Tom Curtis, AWWA's deputy executive director, in Bloomberg. “It needs to be rethought.”

The EPA said in a statement it is “meeting with stakeholders to listen to concerns and collect more information," according to the report.

The rule change emanates 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 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 (or latest misnomer), 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. 

Under current EPA rules, "if more than 10 percent of tap water samples exceed the action level [for lead], water systems must take additional steps. For copper, the action level is 1.3 mg/L, and for lead is 0.015 mg/L."

Lead is a major problem when found in drinking water, often prompting costly infrastructure overhauls. "For instance, the city of Springfield has begun replacing pipes connected to the water meters of several homes after workers discovered they were made of lead,"

Image credit: "Fire Hydrant," © 2011 mrpolyonymous, used under an Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license:

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