CHICAGO — A group of plumbing manufacturers and associations, known as the Get The Lead Out Plumbing Consortium, met here on Aug. 30, 2012, at the invitation of the Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors Association (PHCC) Educational Foundation. The meeting is one of the firsts to develop strategies to alert, prepare and educate contractors, apprentices, distributors, engineers and other industry professionals for upcoming changes in the Reduction of Lead in Drinking Water Act, which will be in effect starting Jan. 4, 2014. Besides educating the industry, the consortium will also focus on business and legal implications of the new legislation.
The concept for the communications outreach and training consortium evolved from the PHCC Educational Foundation Board of Directors. There were 22 industry professionals at the initial meeting, representing the following associations and manufacturers: American Society of Plumbing Engineers (ASPE), American Supply Association (ASA), the International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials (IAPMO), Plumbing Manufacturers International (PMI), Kohler Company, NIBCO Inc., Reliance Worldwide, T & S Brass and Bronze Works Inc., Viega LLC and Watts Water Technologies. As represented by PMI staff, the initiative to educate and clarify in order to ensure compliance is embraced by all PMI members. Kohler and T & S participated as representatives of the PMI Board of Directors.
“Our goal is to provide much needed information transfer, preparation and education about the new lead free law and make the transition as smooth as possible,” said Cindy Sheridan, COO of the PHCC Educational Foundation. “We anticipate the training program will be 60 to 90 minutes. The plan is that manufacturers will deliver the training at industry events in 2013. We are also planning to have online training available. Additionally, we are planning a website and possibly FAQs that can be available on the counter at the wholesalers.”
The Reduction of Lead in Drinking Water Act, which was signed into law by President Barack Obama on Jan. 4, 2011, reduces the permissible levels of lead in wetted surfaces of faucets, pipes and pipe fittings to 0.25% from the previous national standard of 8.0% maximum. The federal law was spearheaded by Plumbing Manufacturers International (PMI), based upon the template of a California law generally referred to as AB 1953. Prior to the federal legislation, Vermont, Maryland and Louisiana have also individually adopted the lower lead mandate.
“Since PMI was instrumental in getting the law passed, we also want to be sure there is no confusion about compliance,” said Barbara C. Higgens, executive director of Plumbing Manufacturers International. “We have PMI members on the content/scheduling committee. We are working to ensure that the message will be fact only — not conjecture on what we think EPA’s interpretation will be.”
Higgens added, “We are delighted to be part of the PHCC effort, and believe that the industry needs to work together regularly. The industry will be more effective if we work together toward common messages and goals. We are doing great things as an industry and deserve credit and respect. Proactively reducing the lead in plumbing products and then educating others about compliance is only one recent example. This industry is in the water business, and water is the source of life. We play a critical role.”
The consortium is made up of two committees: the content/scheduling committee and the marketing/finance committee.
Chuck White, PHCC—NA’s vice president of technical and code services and chairman of the content committee, said it’s important to look at how the new law will affect liability and productivity.
“We need to make sure people understand that materials are going to change and installers will need to be sure to use proper materials,” said White. “We have to be careful about maintaining techniques and getting up to speed with minor changes to get up to top level productivity.”
Derek Bower, associate product manager for Viega ProPress, and Jason McKinnon, training and technical support manager, are on the content/scheduling committee.
According to McKinnon, this legislation will affect everyone from the manufacturer to the end-user, and everyone involved in the manufacturing, distribution and installation of the products and systems must truly understand what is required of them because these new standards will have a significant impact on their businesses.
“Viega LLC is an industry leader and we have been working within the Zero Lead guidelines for quite some time as a proactive measure,” explained McKinnon. “We have many customers faced with state requirements that are already in effect and want to share as much of our expertise as possible with the rest of the industry.”
Jeff Baldwin, engineering manager at T&S Brass and Bronze Works Inc., is also on the content/scheduling committee, and said that the consortium is necessary to ensure that a clear and consistent message is effectively reaching the parties through various avenues.
“It's truly a monumental event when the entire plumbing community can work together to help educate the marketplace about this important issue affecting our industry,” said Baldwin. “Without the consortium, there is a general fear that ‘the message’ may get mixed or misunderstood, which could lead to problems in the field once January 2014 rolls around.”
Also serving on the content/scheduling committee, Joel Smith, director of new product engineering at Kohler Faucets North America, said, “Kohler, having already completed the transition to low-lead faucets prior to 2010 for California, understands how complex any transition can be. The process not only involves product design and manufacturing, but also supply chain and distribution, product certification, education and many other aspects of the business. Kohler wants to help our customers, suppliers and the industry make the transition as quickly and smoothly as possible.”
According to Greg Gyorda, director of marketing communications at Watts Water Technologies, it is critical that the consortium was formed to educate the industry.
“This is a once in a lifetime event, and what’s at stake here is something that is so critical that no companies have been through,” said Gyorda, who is on the marketing/finance committee. “We have come together to contribute to this common effort to educate the industry. The consortium is now sorting through all the information we have all brought to the table as a group to figure out what should be used to educate the industry. It’s great to know that all these manufacturers and associations, some of them competitors, have come together, so to speak, to educate the industry.”