How to best prepare for the Reduction of Lead in Drinking Water Act is still an uncertainty that hovers over the PHCP industry.
When the federal law goes into effect Jan. 4, 2014, any leaded product sold or installed for potable water applications can’t have a weighted average of more than 0.25% lead.
Distributors such as Lakeside Supply have started operations to hopefully eliminate all leaded potable water products by the deadline. Containing the leaded materials is a gradual process for the Cleveland, Ohio-based company.
“We’re getting everything out of its typical shelving areas and working on secluding it,” says Bob Mayer, Lakeside Supply’s inventory coordinator. “We don’t want it getting mixed up with other products.”
One of the biggest remaining concerns is making sure contractor customers are aware of and ready to adhere to the law when it goes into effect. Fines for installing (and selling) leaded products after Jan. 4, 2014 are expected to be hefty.
“We’re still trying to make sure people are aware and not cutting corners,” Mayer states. “We’re making notes on all our company paperwork and we just sent out letters to all our customers about the upcoming law.”
Bryan Huntley, vice president of supply chain for Ohio-based Famous Supply, led his company in the formation of its Lead-Free Committee. The committee meets monthly and consists of members of management, purchasing, sales and product specialists.
“The committee has 13 people and we talk about how we’re going to handle the law,” Huntley says. “We want to make sure everybody fully understands the law and its implications.”
Famous Supply, which services more than 1,000 contractors and has 25 branches throughout western Pennsylvania and Ohio, says manufacturers have been helpful during the company’s transition to no-lead products. Huntley credits Watts Water Technologies, in particular, as being a leader in education for distributors.
“Watts really invested a lot,” Huntley says. “They’re not just saying, ‘Here is what we are doing with our products and that’s that.’ They continue to lead the way in education and understanding the law. That’s going to be really important. When we get down closer to the wire people are going to be asking a lot more questions. It’s going to be a frenzy at the end of the year.”
Watts Water Technologies has set up its no-lead educational website (www.weareleadfree.net) with resources, including a video from South Burlington, Vt.-based Independent Pipe and Supply Corp. Vermont already is operating under the guidelines and restrictions of the upcoming federal law.
“The website is all very informational,” Huntley states. “That has been a great reference for us. They created a one-page handout on all the information. It says this is what you need to know and this is where you have to go about the law and how it affects you.
“We didn’t necessarily want to become the person that was doling out the law or telling our contractors this is what you need to do. We wanted manufacturers to tell them that because that carries more weight.”
The Get The Lead Out Plumbing Consortium continues to be a resource the PHCP industry can lean on for help during the transitional period. The consortium features representatives from Legend Valve, Milwaukee Valve, NIBCO, Watts Water, Reliance Worldwide/Cash Acme, PHCC Educational Foundation and American Supply Association.
The group’s website at www.gettheleadoutplumbing.com features videos and a calendar for training and educational events. The consortium recently held an industry training webinar that attracted more than 300 participants. A recording of the webinar is available on the group’s website.
“It was gratifying to see such a large cross-section of the plumbing industry join us for the webinar,” says Cindy Sheridan, COO of PHCC’s Educational Foundation. “Education and understanding are critical to help ensure a smooth transition to the use of lead-free products by Jan. 4, 2014.”
Viega has set up a section on its website (www.viega.net) to help customers get ready for no-lead compliance through the use of videos, downloads and no-lead product catalogs. Mayer says the manufacturers’ efforts have been incredibly helpful and it’s filtering down past the inventory and warehouse workers.
“Bigger vendors such as Viega have made the transition almost seamless,” he says. “It helps to have our salesmen understand what the intended use of the products is.”
The road ahead
By the time a distributor reads this article there will be just more than seven months to go before the law goes into effect. Famous Supply feels it’s in a stronger position after being proactive with the forthcoming legislation, but hurdles have arisen that it didn’t even think to expect.
“We’re very happy with our first push,” Huntley says. “One of our biggest challenges has been properly identifying everything that could be leaded. Every time we sit down and see more we say, ‘Oh, we forgot about this. We forgot about that.’”
Huntley estimates 10,000 products on Famous Supply shelves are affected by the law. “Supply houses are going to continue to carry leaded products,” he says. “Now the burden becomes how do we ensure that product is lead-free? Manufacturers have done a nice job marking them. They have stamps, markings on the castings, yellow tags and different colored handles. We want to make sure on our paperwork that they’re marked as well.”
Huntley adds it’s not quite time to panic. “Let’s be really smart about what we’re doing,” he says. “Some of the non-leaded products are significantly more expensive than leaded. It’s not something you can just spring on a contractor overnight. Our plan is to sell over the next six months and not buy leaded products. We’ll replace with the no-lead and just sell though. Our goal is to be lead-free by the end of the third quarter. We’re giving the contractors 90 days to get leaded products installed and out of their inventory. We believe that is a reasonable amount of time for our contractors.”
Huntley offers his advice to other wholesalers and contractors who may not be taking the Reduction of Lead in Drinking Water Act as seriously as Famous Supply has over the last year.
“The law is real,” he states. “We may not agree or like the way the law is written, being administered or how it’s going to be enforced, but it’s going to stand. It’s about compliance and our job is to educate.”