Getting Ahead of Lead in Brass

Attention Drinking Water Operators! Have you heard about the Reduction of Lead in Drinking Water Act? Do you have questions about your inventory and how this will affect existing and new brass installations?

In January 2011, the Reduction of Lead in Drinking Water Act legislation was enacted, which reduces the allowable lead content of wetted surfaces in drinking water pipes, pipe fittings and plumbing fixtures. This act prohibits the sale and installation of valves, fittings and fixtures with a weighted lead content of more than 0.25 percent for any use with potable water after January 2014.

The Division of Water (DOW) and Division of Compliance Assistance (DCA) have recently received telephone calls asking for more information. Our current understanding of this legislation is that it does not affect existing or in-place installations. The legislation becomes effective Jan. 4, 2014; therefore, any new installations after this date must comply with the standard. Failing to have a plan for depleting and/or switching out your inventory could have financial consequences by leaving you with a large inventory of useless, nonsalable, leaded brass. In general, no-lead alloy products cost 25–40 percent more than the products currently in inventory. There is some optimism that this price differential will decrease as supply catches up with demand.

For those systems wondering how to accomplish this inventory switch, the state of California is a successful model. California systems accomplished their goals by being proactive and implementing a business plan to purge inventory ahead of their new state law’s effective date. DOW and DCA realize this will be more challenging and difficult for Kentucky systems due to the fact that the federal law is nationwide, and shipping old inventory to neighboring states will not be an option. The products affected by this legislation include all valves, fittings or fixtures that come into contact with potable water, except those excluded per federal public law. This includes corporation stops, curb stops, service fittings and couplings, meter valves, meter couplings, copper meter setters and insetters, meter yoke valves, check valves, backflow valves and more. This also includes any plumbing valves and fittings inside a home that come into contact with potable water.

DOW and DCA will be working together to provide operators and systems with recommendations on how to best manage these upcoming requirements. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is in discussions with the certifying organizations (such as NSF International, United Laboratories) on new materials and equipment that meet the new lead reduction standard, as well as on evaluating current inventory for potential compliance. Later this spring, DOW will be meeting with other state directors to discuss implications and best management practices regarding these proposed changes.

Stay tuned for future blog posts and fact sheets from DOW and DCA regarding the “No Lead in Brass” requirements. DCA does not endorse any particular product or service, but for more information, please visit the following links:

In the meantime, if you have specific concerns or questions, please email DCA at or contact Julie Roney of DOW at 502-564-3410.

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