EPA ruling may drain cities' utilities
By Bloomberg News
Published: Saturday, Nov. 16, 2013, 10:09 p.m.
Philadelphia has 119 fire hydrants that cost about $2,000 each, waiting in a warehouse to be installed.
Yet they sit high and dry because federal regulators say their fittings might taint drinking water with lead.
Communities across the country might have hundreds of millions of dollars in useless hydrants as a result of a surprise ruling last month by the Environmental Protection Agency. The ruling requires that fireplugs put in after Jan. 4 meet stricter standards for lead content, said Tom Curtis of the American Water Works Association in Denver.
As a result, cities must scrap or retrofit inventory or buy hydrants and parts that some vendors haven't even begun making.
Manufacturers and Curtis' group, which represents utilities that serve about 80 percent of Americans, are urging the agency to reconsider or at least allow more time to comply. American Cast Iron Pipe Co., one of the largest hydrant makers, has some customers delay or cancel orders.
“This delivers a huge cost and probably no health protection,” said Curtis, the water group's deputy executive director. “It needs to be rethought.”
Hydrants pose little, if any, risk of long-term lead exposure because they are used to supply drinking water only on occasions, such as a festival or when a main breaks.
Philadelphia is identifying hydrant parts that have contact with the water supply and is having new components made, said Joanne Dahme, a department spokeswoman. She said the cost isn't clear.
“We don't think it makes sense,” Dahme wrote by email. “The rule is not practical.”
The EPA said in a statement it is “meeting with stakeholders to listen to concerns and collect more information.”
The rule resulted from a law enacted in January 2011, 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.
There is no safe level of ingested lead, especially for children, whose bodies absorb more of the metal than adults and can suffer learning disabilities and other effects, said Jerome Paulson, a pediatrician who teaches at George Washington University in the District of Columbia.
“You want to get lead exposure as low as you humanly can,” Paulson said.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Obama hams it up for health care on Funny or Die
- Deaths from heroin, pain pills called ‘urgent,’ growing’ crisis
- Snowden captivates tech crowd
- Lanza’s father says he wishes son was never born
- Fannie, Freddie profits surprise
- General’s court-martial is thrown into jeopardy
- D.C. mayor denies he knew of illegal ‘shadow campaign’
- Changes to Medicare drug coverage scrapped
- White House advises teaching students about money
- Senate OKs bill scrapping ‘good soldier defense’
- Depth, distance reduce impact of quake off California’s northern coast