Reduction of Lead in Drinking Water Act

Reduction of Lead in Drinking Water Act

  1. Public Law 111-380 amended Section 1417 of the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) for the purpose of reducing lead in drinking water.  The short title of the legislation is the “Reduction of Lead in Drinking Water Act”.  The requirements of this new law take effect 36 months after the date of enactment or January 4, 2014.
  2. Section 1417 (a)(1) of the SDWA states that “no person may use any pipe, any pipe or plumbing fitting or fixture, any solder, or any flux, in the installation or repair of any public water system or any plumbing in a residential or nonresidential facility providing water for human consumption that is not lead free”.  Section 1417 (d) defines “lead free” to mean that solders and flux may not contain more than 0.2 percent lead; and pipes, pipe fittings, and components may not contain more than 8.0 percent lead.
  3. Public Law 111-380 changes the definition of “lead free” from 8% to 0.25% for pipes, pipe fittings, and components, based on a weighted average of the wetted surfaces.
  4. The Act applies to residential and nonresidential facilities providing water for human consumption.  You should be aware that under the SDWA, the definition of a public water system is not simply the distribution system but also includes the treatment, the storage, and any collection systems.  The lead free requirement covers all components and materials used in the waterworks from source to tap.
  5. It is very important to realize that this new requirement applies to the installation and the repair of any system that serves water for drinking.  After January 4, 2014 you can no longer utilize any component that does not meet the new lead free definition – this includes components that you may have in current inventory. 
    • Devices and materials currently in service which meet the previous definition of lead free do not have to be removed or replaced.  They may continue to be used, until they need to be replaced or repaired.
    • Replacement devices will clearly need to meet the new lead free definition.
    • There is currently a question about the use of new components that meet the new lead free definition to repair old appurtenances or devices, if the repaired device may still have components that do not meet the new definition, or if the entire device must now meet the new definition.  EPA has not yet provided guidance on this issue.
  6. The Act has two specific exemptions from the lead free requirement;
    • The first exemption is for pipes, pipe fittings, plumbing fittings, and fixtures, including backflow preventers, that are used exclusively for non-potable services such as manufacturing, industrial processing, irrigation, outdoor watering, or other uses where the water is not anticipated to be used for human consumption.
    • The second exemption is for specific components or products and does not have the language that it is used exclusively for non-potable services.  Exempted are shower valves, tub fillers, service saddles, and water distribution main gate valves that are 2 inches in diameter or greater.
    • Note that the above are exempted from meeting any definition of lead free. So any item covered by these exemptions can contain any amount of lead.
  7. The NSF has amended its standard (NSF/ANSI Standard 61) to include an Annex G (took effect in 2010) that addresses the weighted lead content of products.  If products are specified to bear the NSF 61-G Certification Mark, they will comply with the new lead free requirements of PL 111-380. Beginning January 4, 2014, all NSF 61 products will be required to comply with the lead free requirements of the law.
  8. In addition to the lead free content requirements, NSF/ANSI 61 sets requirements for the amount of lead that can leach from products in contact with drinking water.  NSF updated that standard with new stricter requirements that took effect on July 1, 2012.
  9. Also note that any previously adopted and approved Standard Construction Specifications will need to be amended to require that any component utilized in the repair or construction of a waterworks must meet the new lead free requirements (NSF/ANSI 61) beginning January 4, 2014. 

Public Law
NSF Stds
UL Summary
Annex G Overview