Contractors discuss implementation, installation challenges at Lead Free seminar

Sept. 30, 2013
ST. LOUIS — Recently the St. Louis Plumbing Industry Council and manufacturer’s rep firm Mack McClain & Associates held a well-attended “We Are Lead Free” seminar here in St. Louis.

ST. LOUIS —Recently the St. Louis Plumbing Industry Council and manufacturer’s rep firm Mack McClain & Associates held a well-attended “We Are Lead Free” seminar here in St. Louis.

Watts Director of Product Management Phil Lavrich talks with Sherman Rotskoff, of Crescent Plumbing Supply.

Sean Graham, sales representative with Mack McClain & Associates, hosted Watts Director of Product Management Phil Lavrich as a guest speaker for the event. The seminar was an important facet of the educational classes conducted by Watts and its manufacturer’s reps nationwide to help educate a wide variety of trade professionals about the implications of new federal legislation requiring that all potable water fixtures installed after Jan. 4, 2014, qualify as lead-free.

Across the country, seminar attendees include engineers and system designers, plumbing and mechanical contractors, manufacturer’s reps and wholesalers.

“We’re now drawing very close to the January 1 date when the new federal lead-free legislations mandate full compliance nationally; you might say we’re in the last bend,” said Lavrich. “As a leading producer of lead-free products and technology, Watts has made a commitment to being an information leader as well. 

Watts took a strong position two years ago — making sure that education of trade professionals would be, and has been, a top priority,” added Lavrich. “The seminars are just part of the enormous effort we and our reps have put into it. Watts’ educational effort includes the many, ongoing seminars as well as advertising, publicity, website development with routine updates, and many speaking and presenting opportunities at industry events.     

“The two-hour seminar we conducted in St. Louis provided a thorough explanation of what lead-free products are, and what implementation and installation challenges are involved,” continued Lavrich. “By now, professionals in the trade know the change to lead-free plumbing components is coming, but I’m not as certain that everyone knows what it’ll mean in the field and why.  That’s what we’re aiming to change with presentations like these.”

Nearly 100 contractors and wholesalers from the greater St. Louis area showed up for the August 28th lead free training session, roughly four months before the national legislation takes effect.

John Krauska, owner of Kent Plumbing Inc., St. Louis, attended the seminar and said it was informative, and thanks to the meeting he understands what will be required. “The meeting was very informative and the presenters did a thorough job presenting the material,” said Krauska. 

According to Graham and Lavrich, there were a variety of questions from the 95 or so attendees, and lively discussion, about the impact of local interpretation of the new federal law. There are some gray areas when it comes to definitions about what, exactly, is considered potable water, and what’s not. Questions also came up about soldering components. Installers want to know if there are differences, or the need for new techniques, or solder, etc.

“As for interpretation of the law, applications of the law are still being written,” said Lavrich.  “Enforcement typically becomes the responsibility of local inspectors and jurisdictions, so that’s always a source of interest and perhaps some controversy, too.”

“Organizing this seminar has been in the works since early July,” said Graham. “Seeing it so well attended and so well received was worth the effort.”  Graham works out of Mack McClain & Associates’ St. Louis office.  The rep firm’s territory covers Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, Southern Illinois and Western Kentucky, with offices located in Des Moines, St. Louis and Kansas City.

There were also a lot of questions asked, and answered, about the make-up of lead-free alloys chosen by Watts. “There were several very good questions asked about the alloys we chose for the new lead-free metals,” continued Lavrich. “We were glad to have the opportunity to explain why we chose and standardized on silicon over bismuth, favoring its advantages.”

Lavrich added that the seminars typically offer continuing education credits, especially valuable to contractors who seek credits to maintain state licenses.   

The following topics were also discussed at the seminar:

  • Overview of state and federal lead free laws.
  • Review of NSF standards related to lead free products.
  • Discuss alloy options and tradeoffs to meeting lead free requirements.
  • Discuss steps Watts is taking to address the new law.
  • Review brands/products in scope for lead free conversion.
  • Review lead free product identification.
  • Working with lead free products.

Lavrich adds that some attendees are surprised to learn that lead-free isn’texactly free of lead, entirely. The term, “lead-free” refers to less than 0.25% weighted average lead content in relation to wetted surface of pipe, fittings, and fixtures in systems delivering water for human consumption, referring to metal surfaces that the water ‘sees’,” he said.   

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