22 Plumbing -- Lead Content

NSF/ANSI 372 - 2011 Drinking Water System Components - Lead Content

By David P. Rebhuhn, PE (GA PE#32928), NCEES (#18079), CSI Member

Introduction

The new Federal Law (passed January 4, 2011) addressing the lead content in any plumbing fixture, plumbing fitting, or plumbing pipe providing water for human consumption becomes effective January 4, 2014. We felt that it was important to issue this reminder to our Customers because of the potential liability associated with not citing this Standard appropriately in the specifications.

Application of the Law

Prior to being developed as NSF/ANSI 372, part of the content of this Standard was established as NSF/ANSI 61, Annex G - "Weighted average lead content evaluation procedure to a 0.25% lead requirement". Annex G was developed and approved in 2008. Even though Annex G was an optional evaluation method within NSF/ANSI 61, it required that products also meet the chemical extraction requirements of NSF/ANSI 61. It was also limited in application to drinking water products that were included within the scope of NSF/ANSI 61. Both NSF/ANSI 372 and NSF/ANSI 61, Annex G are acceptable certifications for the new rule, however, NSF/ANSI 61, Annex G is a more expensive certification because it evaluates lead leaching in addition to lead content. The NSF Joint Committee on Drinking Water Additives - System Components determined that creation of a separate standard addressing lead content requirements would provide greater flexibility in the application of the lead content requirements to the marketplace and organizations seeking to reference such requirements.                   

NSF/ANSI 61 establishes limits for the amount of lead that may migrate into drinking water from the water contact materials within a drinking water contact product. NSF/ANSI 372 establishes a limit on the amount of lead that may be contained within the water contact materials in a drinking water contact product. This Standard also defines a test methodology for the analytical determination of the lead content of materials in these products.

NSF/ANSI 372 may be used in conjunction with NSF/ANSI 61 for the purpose of minimizing lead from drinking water products. NSF/ANSI 372 may also be used in conjunction with other standards addressing other products that are not included in the Scope of NSF/ANSI 61, such as the NSF Drinking Water Treatment Unit Standards. This Standard can also be used to demonstrate compliance with individual jurisdictional or contractual requirements that include lead content restrictions on drinking water contact products.  

NSF/ANSI 372 does not include product performance requirements that are currently addressed in other voluntary consensus standards established by such organizations as the American Water Works Association, the American Society for Testing and Materials, and the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. Because this Standard complements the performance standards of these organizations, it is recommended that products also meet the appropriate performance requirements specified in the standards of such organizations.

NSF/ANSI 372 with its accompanying text is intended for voluntary use by certifying organizations, utilities, regulatory agencies, and/or manufacturers as a basis of providing assurances that adequate health protection exists for covered products. Product certification issues, including frequency of testing and requirements for follow-up testing, evaluation, enforcement, and other policy issues, are not addressed by this Standard.

Exemptions

The use or sale of lead pipes, solder, and flux in pipes or plumbing fittings or fixtures is permitted as long as these products are used exclusively for non-potable services.

Legal Implications

All States are responsible for enforcement through State or local plumbing codes or any other means deemed appropriate. More than likely, enforcement will fall on the shoulders of cities, towns, and municipalities within each State, with health and plumbing codes utilized to drive enforcement.               

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is expected to issue regulations governing the new law. On August 16, 2012, the EPA held a public webinar with external stakeholders to discuss the Reduction of Lead in Drinking Water Act and the potential ramifications that this change in law may have. Participants included public utilities, government agencies, plumbing manufacturers, plumbing retailers, and various trade associations. At the end of the webinar, EPA solicited comments from the attendees on issues and concerns relating to the new requirements. The webinar proceedings and solicited input were used in formulating "Frequently Asked Questions" (FAQs) available on their website in PDF format at: http://water.epa.gov/drink/info/lead/upload/epa815p13001.pdf. This draft document, including the answers to frequently asked questions, expresses EPA's interpretation of the statutory requirements at  the time of publication.  The EPA requested that all comments or questions regarding the "FAQs" be emailed to "LeadFreeAct@epa.gov" by June 21, 2013. The EPA intends to republish the FAQs after consideration and review of all input.

It will be illegal to install or introduce into commerce, any potable water product that does not comply with the weighted average lead content. Some States have been proactive in the reduction of lead content. The first two States to enact legislation to adopt the new 0.25% standard were California and Vermont effective January 1, 2010 to be followed by Maryland on January 1, 2012, and Louisiana on December 31, 2012. According to NSF, our neighbor to the north (Canada) is including the same wording as the U.S. legislation in its standards and codes that will have the same effective date for compliance.

Potable Water Meters

Municipalities, in particular, need to exercise prudent judgment in the selection and purchase of water meters for their customers. The definition of "lead-free" is subject to being changed regarding percent the weighted average 0.25%. Water meters have historically incorporated (lead-leaching) bronze components. This will subject them to a higher level of scrutiny based on more restrictive limits on lead content. Composite meters that incorporate a blend of fiberglass and plastic with a "zero lead" approach are becoming an attractive alternative due to their proven strength and stable pricing. "Low lead" can mean anything less than 8.0% while "no lead" is just that, and not defined by any standard.  

Removing Doubt

It is recommended that every facility manager, building owner, contractor, and specifier make certain they know where they and their plumbing sources stand on this issue. Some manufacturers have taken measures to change their products to comply with the law. Manufacturers may start to include lead-free part numbers to prevent ordering errors. Suppliers need to notify specifiers to update their specifications. Manufacturers will still continue to fabricate standard products for uses that are exempt from the new law. There are still outstanding questions contributing to uncertainty such as the repair of existing products that were installed before the effective date of the new law. As an example, would all component parts of an existing water meter assembly have to meet the definition of lead-free if repair or replacement of only one component is necessary?