OBSERVER Staff Report
Today, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer called on the federal Environmental Protection Agency to delay a new mandate on local municipalities, like the Cities of Dunkirk and Jamestown, that forces them to throw out and replace over $25,000 worth of brand new fire hydrants and parts after Jan. 4.
According to Schumer, on Oct. 22, the EPA released its interpretation of the Reduction of Lead in Drinking Water Act of 2011, and for the first time disclosed that fire hydrants will be subject to new reduced lead standards, due to the rare occurrence that hydrants provide drinking water. Schumer said that across the country, this took local water authorities, public safety officials, and hydrant manufacturers by surprise, demonstrated by the hundreds of hydrants - up to $1,200 or more a piece - that are sitting in their stockyards ready for installation.
Schumer also noted that members of Congress did not intend for hydrants to be included in these new reduced-lead drinking water standards when the law was written, noting that bath tub and shower parts are not forced to comply. Therefore, Schumer called on the EPA to exempt existing fire hydrants that were purchased by municipalities before the EPA released these unexpected guidelines. Schumer also urged a new transition period be established for municipalities to work in conjunction with manufacturers and fire departments, so that hundreds of thousands of dollars of taxpayer dollars are not wasted and so that life-saving hydrants can be replaced when damaged after January 4, 2014. Cities, counties and local rate payers should not suffer for last minute, costly rule-changes, and Schumer noted that manufacturers also need more than a few months to test and produce compliant and safe fire hydrants. Schumer explained that in the event the EPA does not act soon, he would push in the Senate to pass bipartisan legislation approved by the House last week that will add fire hydrants to the list of devices that are already exempt.
According to Chautauqua County officials, the City of Dunkirk has three hydrants in reserve, valued at $3,600 and the City of Jamestown has 18 hydrants in reserve, costing $21,600. In sum, $25,200 in stockpiled hydrants in Dunkirk and Jamestown would be rendered unusable come January.
See the full story in Tuesday's OBSERVER.