Looking Past Lead

For the past few years, municipalities and the utilities that serve those communities have been learning about changing standards and regulations regarding the amount of lead that comes in contact with drinking water. Government and industries together have taken specific steps to limit the use of lead in manufactured water system products. The ramifications for cities, as would be expected, are numerous ? affecting both existing and future water system infrastructure, planning and, of course, budgeting. At the same time, the general public has taken a greater interest in water quality, especially in light of studies on the possible negative health effects of lead exposure.

The first significant standard for lead in the water industry was NSF/ANSI Standard 61, adopted in October 1988 and eventually enacted in 46 states. The standard set performance (pertaining to leaching) requirements to limit the potential health effects of drinking water system components. Section 8 of NSF 61 deals specifically with mechanical devices, including water meters and other in-line devices used to measure or control the flow of water in distribution systems.
Lead in Drinking Water
Performance (Leaching of Material) Standard for Lead
In 2007, an amendment, Annex F, was added to NSF/ANSI 61 modifying an existing performance standard for chemical extraction to measure whether contaminants that leach out of the product or material into drinking water exceed acceptable levels.

As of July 1, 2012, the revised performance standard will continue to evaluate drinking water system components for health effects but with more stringent requirements. Instead of 15 micrograms per liter, the total allowable concentration (TAC) under Annex F has been reduced by two-thirds to just five micrograms per liter.

Content Standard for Lead
Going beyond a leaching standard, NSF International worked with the State of California to develop Annex G, a lead content standard that demonstrates compliance with California AB1953.? Annex G went into effect in January 2010, was retired in October 2013 and replaced by a new, stand-alone standard, NSF/ANSI Standard 372, along with new content verification testing. Annex G dealt not with leaching but with the amount of lead in products and fittings that come into contact with the water we drink.

What is now NSF/ANSI Standard 372 stipulates a weighted average lead content of 0.25 percent or less, based on wetted surface area. As of January 2014, water meters as well as pipe, pipe fittings, plumbing fittings and fixtures will require certification to NSF 372 in order to demonstrate compliance with revisions to the federal Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA). The changes due to go into effect on Jan. 4, 2014 include a revised definition for ?lead free? within the SDWA. At that point, the NSF 372 requirements will be mandated in all 50 states.

Utilities may have to perform testing to verify that their system?s drinking water system components meet current and future requirements for lead performance and lead content.

Lead in Drinking Water

Lead-free bronze alloy meters will meet the requirements. It is also possible that meters manufactured with plastic or composite?housings may meet the lead free requirements ? but utilities will need to check with each individual manufacturer. As to how plastic or composite?meters address issues such as durability, safety (including electrical grounding), etc.; those are additional questions. Plastic or composite?meters do not have the breadth of field-tested experience that lead-free bronze alloy meters do.

At the time of this writing, other consequences of the new standards and regulations were still being considered and clarified. As cities plan ahead, decision makers should keep in mind some key questions, such as ?Will products we have in inventory meet the new SDWA (NSF 372) lead free requirements as of Jan. 4, 2014?? If not, unused inventory may have to be returned to the manufacturer or scrapped.

Now is the time to make sure the meters in your system meet present as well as future lead content and performance requirements. Utilities must now ensure their water meters are compliant to help provide safe drinking water for their customers. Be sure to specify NSF/ANSI 61 approved products for complete protection in your system.

John Parks is director of marketing for meters and AMR/AMI endpoints for Neptune Technology Group.?

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