Section 1417 of the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) establishes the definition for “lead free” as a weighted average of 0.25% lead calculated across the wetted surfaces of a pipe, pipe fitting, plumbing fitting, and fixture and 0.2% lead for solder and flux. The Act also provides a methodology for calculating the weighted average of wetted surfaces.
The Act prohibits the “use of any pipe, any pipe or plumbing fitting or fixture, any solder, or any flux, after June 1986, in the installation or repair of (i) any public water system; or (ii) any plumbing in a residential or non-residential facility providing water for human consumption, that is not lead free.”
Additionally there is a prohibition on introducing a pipe, any pipe or plumbing fitting or fixture, any solder, or any flux that is not lead free into commerce; unless the use is for manufacturing or industrial purposes.
The SDWA includes several exemptions from the lead free requirements, specifically for plumbing devices that are used exclusively for nonpotable services, as well as a list of specific products: toilets, bidets, urinals, fill valves, flushometer valves, fire hydrants, tub fillers, shower valves, service saddles, or water distribution main gate valves that are 2 inches in diameter or larger.
Proposed Rule: Use of Lead Free Pipes, Fittings, Fixtures, Solder and Flux for Drinking Water
EPA proposes to make conforming changes to existing regulations based on the Reduction of Lead in Drinking Water Act (RLDWA) and the Community Fire Safety Act enacted by Congress. The proposed regulation would modify the definition of lead free plumbing products (e.g., pipes, fittings and fixtures) to conform to the statute enacted by Congress that prohibits a lead content level above 0.25%. The proposal also includes labeling requirements that will allow users of these products to identify plumbing devices that meet the new “lead free” definition. Labeling will reduce the likelihood that non-lead free products are used in plumbing that is intended for drinking water use. Additionally, the proposal includes requirements for manufacturers to certify that they are meeting these new requirements. EPA requested comments on the proposal during the comment period which ended on May 17, 2017.
Past Public Meeting Federal Register Notices, Presentations, and Summary of the Act
In 1986 Congress Amended the Safe Drinking Water Act, prohibiting the use of pipes, solder or flux that were not “lead free” in public water systems or plumbing in facilities providing water for human consumption. At the time "lead free” was defined as solder and flux with no more than 0.2% lead and pipes with no more than 8%.
In 1996 Congress further amended the Safe Drinking Water Act, requiring plumbing fittings and fixtures (endpoint devices) to be in compliance with voluntary lead leaching standards. The amendments also prohibited the introduction into commerce of any pipe, pipe or plumbing fitting or fixture that is not lead free.
In 2011 Congress passed the Reduction of Lead in Drinking Water Act (RLDWA) revising the definition of lead free by lowering the maximum lead content of the wetted surfaces of plumbing products (such as pipes, pipe fittings, plumbing fittings and fixtures) from 8% to a weighted average of 0.25%, establishing a statutory method for the calculation of lead content and eliminating the requirement that lead free products be in compliance with voluntary standards established in accordance with SDWA 1417(e) for leaching of lead from new plumbing fittings and fixtures.
The 2011 RLDWA also created exemptions in SDWA Section 1417 from the prohibitions on the use or introduction into commerce of “pipes, pipe fittings, plumbing fittings or fixtures, including backflow preventers, that are used exclusively for non-potable services such as manufacturing, industrial processing, irrigation, outdoor watering, or any other uses where the water is not anticipated to be used for human consumption” (SDWA 1417(a)(4)(A)). Also exempt are “toilets, bidets, urinals, fill valves, flushometer valves, tub fillers, shower valves, service saddles, or water distribution main gate valves that are 2 inches in diameter or larger” (SDWA 1417(a)(4)(B)).
The Community Fire Safety Act of 2013 further amended the SDWA Section 1417 to include fire hydrants in the list of exempted plumbing devices.