NEW YORK—Worried that New Yorkers will throw $1 million down the drain, Senator Charles Schumer asked EPA to exempt fire hydrants from the new rules that make them a potential source of lead-contaminated drinking water.
In a recent Q&A from their “Reduction of Lead in Drinking Water Act of 2011,” the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) stated, “fire hydrants can be, and are, used in emergency situations to provide drinking water.” Since the brass fittings inside the fire hydrants contain lead, the thousand plus water hydrants in stock would have to be replaced.
Schumer called the late-October rule change a big surprise. He said that getting rid of the old fire hydrants is not only a money problem but a safety problem as well.
“God forbid, in Queens or Staten Island or Brooklyn or Manhattan, a car crashes into a fire hydrant and they’ve got to put a new one in, after January 1st they’ll have no new fire hydrants to put in,” he said.
Schumer was joined by New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Commissioner Carter Strickland at the DEP Water and Sewer Operations Manhattan yard, to make the announcement in front of a couple of water hydrants which Schumer called harmless.
“Lead poisoning occurs over a very long period of time, and is cumulative,” he said.
The cost for the new water hydrants approved by EPA would show up on the resident’s water bill.
“This, on top of other federal mandates, does add up,” Strickland said.
In a letter to Gina McCarthy, the EPA Administrator, Schumer asked for a delay in the rules beyond the January deadline, and to exempt fire hydrants from the standards.
If the EPA does not postpone the regulation, Schumer said he would introduce new legislation to exempt water hydrants from the list of reduced-lead drinking water standards.
The EPA office said McCarthy is on business in China until the weekend.
Although Schumer supported the 2011 act, he said that the disclosure about water hydrants doesn’t make sense.
He still firmly stands by his belief that New York City water is the cleanest in the country. “Whenever I go to the restaurant and they say ‘Do you want bottled water or New York tap water?’ I always say ‘New York tap water.’”
The federal regulation applies to water utilities throughout the country. “We make sure that [water] is safe, there are over a hundred million tests that we perform,” Strickland said.