US Senate Unanimously Passes HR3588: Community Fire Safety Act

Fire Hydrant 10

On December 17, the US Senate unanimously passed HR3588: Community Fire Safety Act to exclude fire hydrants, including their pipes, fittings, fixtures, solder, and flux, from the Reduction of Lead in Drinking Water Act. The bill, which passed the US House of Representatives by unanimous vote on December 2 and has garnered broad bipartisan and water industry support, now heads to the White House for signature.

“The American Water Works Association applauds the Senate for its swift action in passing the Community Fire Safety Act,” said AWWA Executive Director David LaFrance. “Our elected leaders have done a great service for their communities, and we are optimistic that President Obama will sign the bill into law. We also are grateful to the many voices in the water community and beyond who joined with AWWA in bringing this issue to Congress over the past few weeks. Their willingness to raise their voices has made all the difference.”

LaFrance added: “The Reduction of Lead in Drinking Water Act was not intended to cover fire hydrants. Our elected leaders have arrived at a common-sense decision that will save valuable time and resources for water utilities and equipment manufacturers, costs that ultimately would be borne by water consumers.”

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EPA Backs Away from Lead-free Hydrants Rule

MELISSA DANIELS
THE PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW

Facing oppoposition from fire and water officials, the EPA is backing down on the need for lead-free fire hydrants.

hydrantThe Environmental Protection Agency is backing down from an effort that urges municipalities to install lead-free fire hydrants because of opposition from fire officials, water authorities and members of Congress.

U.S. Sens. Bob Casey, D-Scranton, and Pat Toomey, R-Lehigh Valley, were among four senators working on bipartisan legislation that would exempt fire hydrants from EPA requirements restricting the use of lead in certain types of water infrastructure by Jan. 4.

Late Friday, EPA officials said they won’t pursue their plans.

“In response to the feedback received through that process, EPA concluded that fire hydrants are not widely used as a potable source of water and that the guidance should be revised to exclude fire hydrants if Congress doesn’t take action to do so before the January deadline,” EPA spokeswoman Julia Valentine said in a statement.

The fire hydrant rule, announced in October, was part of the Reduction of Lead in Drinking Water Act, a 3-year-old piece of legislation. Throughout the fall, fire departments and water authorities nationwide urged the EPA to change course. Fire hydrants, they said, contain little lead in their metal parts or paint.

Some fixtures, such as shower valves, are exempt from the regulations. The legislation passed by the House of Representatives and under consideration in the Senate would add fire hydrants to the list of exemptions.

Casey and Toomey have said the measure would be “too costly and burdensome.” The Senate was expected to pass the bill sometime before the new year, according to Toomey’s office.

The rule would apply only to hydrants installed after Jan. 4.

At West View Water Authority, project manager George Koleck said hydrants contain few lead-containing metal parts. Yet the authority would have had to replace 30 hydrants in storage, purchased for about $1,800 apiece.

“If the EPA is telling us we have to use no lead, brass or bronze parts in repairing fire hydrants, that means we have to throw out our current inventory and purchase new items,” Koleck said.

In addition, manufacturers might not have lead-free products available, meaning any repairs or retrofitted hydrants would have to be shipped to the factory to comply with regulations.

“We test for lead in our water and we’re well below the standards,” Koleck said. “We’re for safe water, and we’ll do what’s required and necessary, but sometime these regulations are a little more overboard.”

Melissa Rubin, spokeswoman for the Pittsburgh Water & Sewer Authority, said the agency has about 50 hydrants stored to replace broken ones.

If the no-lead regulation had taken place, Rubin said it would have cost the agency $132,000 to replace its stored hydrants.

Melissa Daniels is a Trib Total Media staff writer.

Copyright 2013 Tribune Review Publishing Company, All Rights Reserved

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Proposed Legislation to Exclude Fire Hydrants from the Reduction of Lead in Drinking Water Act

hydrantOn Monday, December 2, the US House of Representatives unanimously voted to override a controversial October 22, 2013 EPA ruling that included fire hydrants in the Reduction of Lead in Drinking Water Act. This Act, slated to take effect January 4, 2014, would require all new fire hydrants and their accompanying pipes, fixtures, and fittings to be lead-free.

The bill, cosponsored by Congressmen Paul Tonko (D-NY) and Bill Johnson (R-Ohio), garnered sweeping bipartisan support, an unusual occurrence when it comes to EPA rulings. Named the Community Fire Safety Act, HR 3588, the bill also received broad support from the water industry, including the American Water Works Association, Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies, Association of California Water Agencies, National Association of Water Companies, and National Rural Water Association.

“This commonsense legislation eliminates an unintended consequence of a recent law enacted to enhance public health. No one is getting a steady supply of drinking water from the fire hydrant at the end of their street, so we should not add to the heavy burden our local governments with constrained budgets already experience,” said Rep. Tonko. “We need to remove lead from our drinking water, but we do not need to regulate fire hydrants to achieve this worthy and important goal,” he continued. “When Congress passed the amendments to the Safe Drinking Water Act three years ago, I doubt anyone intended to have EPA regulate hydrants.”

Advocates of the Community Fire Safety Act are strongly urging individuals to contact their senators in support of this legislation, and to ask that the Act be voted into law. If the Act fails to pass, community water utilities will be stuck holding millions of dollars of brand new, non-compliant fire hydrants – with no means of procuring the required lead-free hydrants.

“Water utilities have made it clear that they have two choices come January 4: fail to comply with federal law, or leave gaps in critical fire hydrant service,” commented Rep. Johnson. “No one should ever face that choice.”

To contact your senator, please visit https://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm

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