Seven faucet firms settle lawsuit on lead emissions

An agreement with California’s attorney general includes reducing lead emissions in faucets over a four-year period. Get the lead out. That is what some faucet manufacturers are doing as part of a settlement with the attorney general of California.

To settle a lawsuit, seven faucet manufacturers have agreed to reduce lead emissions from their faucets over a four-year period. The companies are American Standard, Eljer Manufacturing, Elkay Manufacturing, Masco Corp. (makers of Delta and Peerless faucets), Moen, Universal-Rundle and United States Brass.

Other faucet manufacturers, including Chicago Faucet, are seeking separate settlements. A California State Court of Appeals ruled that the manufacturers’ faucet products were not subject to the discharge provisions of the state’s Proposition 65 law.

After the Appeals Court ruling, the three plaintiffs – the state of California, the National Resources Defense Council and the Environmental Law Foundation – agreed to settle all claims with the seven faucet companies in the two suits.

Under terms of the settlement, the manufacturers will voluntarily reduce lead emissions from their faucets over a four-year period, will pay a portion of the plaintiffs’ attorneys fees and will help fund a public information program on lead in drinking water. The settlement imposes no penalties.

The manufacturers have agreed that all kitchen, lavatory and bar faucets sold in California by Dec. 31, 1996 will test at 11 micrograms of lead or less under Standard 61, Section 9 approved by the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

Additionally, the manufacturers agreed to take actions to ensure that their faucet products sold in California are improved over time to meet even more demanding criteria regarding lead. The announced settlement includes a lead reduction phase-in for drinking water faucets, going from 11 micrograms per liter of water (the current federal standard) to 5 micrograms over a five-year period.

Sixty-five percent of the products of each of the companies covered by the settlement must test at fewer than five micrograms of lead by Dec. 31, 1996. The percentage increases to 80% by the end of 1997, 90% by the end of 1998 and 95% by the end of 1999.

As Professional Builder went to press in October Chicago Faucets was seeking a separate settlement. “Chicago Faucets has been and remains in productive negotiations with the California attorney general, and we expect to reach an agreement shortly,” said Alan Lougee, president of Chicago Faucet Co.

Charlie Whipple, vice president of sales and marketing for Chicago Faucets, says, “Although we agree that a five-micrograms standard is acceptable, we feel the test protocol is arbitrary.” Whipple says the settlement does not account for the differences which exist between component faucets and more durable brass faucets. Component faucets are made from a combination of plastic, copper and zinc parts.

With a high percentage of products produced from component parts, some manufacturers can exclude their brass products from the lower standard for two to three years, Whipple says. In effect, Whipple says, manufacturers of only brass products, such as Chicago Faucets, are being asked to meet a more stringent standard.

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