Lead in Drinking Water Act: What You Need to Know before January

water safetyThe use of lead in drinking water pipes has been restricted since the 1920s but in a few short months a new law will be in effect for restaurants, bars, and other foodservice establishments. If you haven’t considered the impact of these new regulations on your business, there is no better time than September’s “National Food Safety Month” to prepare yourself and your patrons.

For several decades, scientists have warned about the exposure to lead and its effect on health. While concentrations of lead in drinking water are not typically derived from natural sources, one of the most common causes of lead concentration in water is contamination from the corrosion of water supply pipes and plumbing fixtures.

As a result, the United States began restricting lead use in water pipes due to public health concerns. In 1974, The Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) was passed to regulate the nation’s public drinking water supply. As originally implemented, the SDWA required public water systems to minimize lead concentrations by controlling the corrosion that resulted in lead leaching from water system infrastructure. This could be achieved via careful management of the water’s mineral content, acidity, temperature, and proper maintenance and replacement of a water system’s piping. However, these actions did little to remedy the original source of the lead found in drinking water.

Since the signing of the initial act, there have been several amendments. This includes a1986 amendment that mandated that all pipes, solders, pipe fittings, and plumbing fixtures used in the installation or repair of any public water system, or any residential or nonresidential facility that provides water for human consumption be lead free. By August of 2001, plumbing fittings and fixtures were limited to no more than 4.0% lead.

Most recently, the Reduction of Lead in Drinking Water Act signed by President Obama on January 4, 2011, reduces the amount of lead permissible in water meters to 0.25%. These new regulations will go into effect on January 4, 2014.

With a little over three months before federal regulatory requirements come into effect, many foodservice establishments are already converting to no-lead products to ensure proper inventory for 2014. Please note: if you’re located in California, Vermont or Maryland, your states have already passed comparable laws limiting lead content.

While replacing pipes and outfitting for new regulations is certainly an expense and may even require some serious renovation work, it is important not to overlook your plumbing fixtures. Regulations require that both plumbing and plumbing fixtures meet the new lead-free requirements. This includes updating old faucets and pre-rinse assemblies that do not meet the updated maximums. Taking these steps will help ensure uninterrupted customer service and contribute to the health and well-being of your guests.

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