California Lead Bill's Fate Up To Governor
As PM went to press, controversial California legislation designed to drastically eliminate the lead content of faucets sold in that state was awaiting a final decision by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
“I've heard confident predictions on both sides of the matter,” said Barbara C. Higgens, executive director of the Plumbing Manufacturers Institute. “On one hand, the bill is so riddled with errors that there's no way he will sign the bill into law. And on the other hand, he's facing a tough re-election bid this year, so it would be difficult for him to veto the bill.”
If the bill becomes law, the effects on plumbing manufacturers would include the following:
For its part, PMI has orchestrated a letter-writing campaign as well as personal phone calls from some of the industry's highest-ranking executives to set up meetings with Schwarzenegger.
“Our position is that the only way to ensure safe drinking water is not by dictating materials or manufacturing methods,” Higgens added, “but rather by using a performance-based standard to analyze what is going into the glass.”
For PMI, NSF Standard 61 does just that. In a letter to Schwarzenegger, Higgens makes the case that materials in faucets already are highly regulated nationally thanks to the performance testing that is a part of NSF 61.
“Lead is only one of a number of elements measured by this testing,” the PMI letter states. “AB 1953 prescribes an arbitrary and convoluted formula for constructing faucets, which, by ignoring performance criteria, actually puts consumers at risk.”
The letter also includes a 14-point “myth vs. reality” document surrounding AB 1953 and points out an amendment tacked on to the bill that exempts products, such as backflow preventers, gate valves and service saddles, which contain larger amounts of lead than the state's 8 percent limit. Not surprisingly, makers of such devices have lined up on the side of making AB 1953 law.
For PMI, the bottom line is there are no faucets on the market that would comply with the parameters of the bill. This despite proponents' claims that there are many such faucets.
As the bill wound its way through the legislative process, for example, its backers said there were three manufacturers who did make such faucets. However, presidents of those three manufacturers, including one that hadn't sold their faucets in California for decades, said they made no such faucets.
Also, proponents made the claim that 24 companies comply with AB 1953. However, PMI's letter points out that this claim was misconstrued. The 24 manufacturers are members of the California Metals Coalition, a group that represents the interests of die makers, machine shops and fabricators, and not any faucet makers.
At this point, Higgens did tell us that if the governor were to veto the bill, there would not be enough votes to override his action.