Come January every newly installed fire hydrant in the United States needs to contain fewer lead parts. New EPA regulations aim to cut down on lead in drinking water. But that change could cost municipalities hundreds of thousands of dollars to implement. Our Candace Hopkins says one lawmaker is calling for an exemption for the hydrants.
SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- The Reduction of Lead in Drinking Water Act was passed in 2011 with the intent to cut down on lead poisoning. It means items that drinking water passes through, like kitchen faucets, need to contain less lead. The act goes into effect in January.
Two months ago, the EPA announced newly installed fire hydrants must also comply. That change could lead to big bills for cities and towns across the country.
"This is the kinda thing that makes people scratch their heads and say what the heck is Washington doing, what is wrong with Washington," said Senator Charles Schumer.
Senator Schumer is now calling for the EPA to exempt fire hydrants from the restrictions. He says no one gets their drinking water from a fire hydrant.
"Between the City of Syracuse and OCWA, they'd have to throw away $400,000 to meet these new, ridiculous regulations," said Senator Schumer.
Old fire hydrants would be grandfathered in, but new hydrants would need to contain less than 0.25 percent lead. Currently, Onondaga County has a stockpile of hydrants and parts. They're worth about $1,200 each and none of them could be used after January in their current condition. Two parts on the hydrants would need to be replaced or they would have to be thrown out completely.
"To get the fire hydrants up and retro-fitted we're gonna have to scramble around to find a place that can actually retro-fit, it's gonna cost us a lot of money," said OCWA Secretary-Treasurer John Bianchini.
That's money officials say cities and towns simply don't have right now.