Congress saves fire hydrants from scrap yard over lead rules

Dec 18, 2013

Public water departments have been saved from being required to scrap thousands of brand new fire hydrants.

Congress has passed legislation that will exempt hydrants from stricter federal rules about lead in plumbing. The Senate passed the bill last night and the House version had already been approved.

Under the Environmental Protection Agency's new lead in drinking water rules that were set to go into effect in January, hydrants as they’re made now would be deemed unusable because they contain too high of an amount of lead.

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) says it was an absurd decision by EPA to include hydrants in drinking water standards.

"This story has a happy ending at the last minute, but it’s a shame we had to go through all this," Schumer said Wednesday. "EPA shouldn’t have done this, shouldn’t of done it at all, certainly shouldn’t of done it suddenly. It’s an example of bureaucracy out of control. Congress’ job is to reign them in."

Schumer had lobbied for the EPA to at least grandfather in already built and purchased hydrants but says he got a less than ideal response from the agency. Congress’ bill will be a permanent exemption.

Water authorities keep hundreds of spare hydrants, which cost about $1,200 each, on hand to replace ones that break or are damaged. They have a small amount of lead in the brass pieces holding the iron hydrants together.