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Enzi drinking water legislation would save local communities millions

Would allow use of already purchased water inventories/fixtures

December 13, 2013

An Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) change in the content amount of leaded brass in drinking water system components will leave small and rural communities stuck with unusable and costly inventories of fixtures, according to U.S. Senator Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., who introduced a bill today that would allow municipalities to use up their current inventory of drinking water parts. Utilization of these inventories would not result in any communities violating the EPA lead safety level for drinking water and not result in any risk to public health. Enzi said his bill would save Wyoming taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Communities in Wyoming and across the U.S. have large inventories of brass drinking water supply components on hand. They need these inventories to operate, maintain and repair the public’s drinking water supply. The City of Casper is estimated to have more than $600,000 in existing inventory, Cheyenne over $100,000, Gillette over $35,000, and Thermopolis $18,000. Nationally it is estimated that replacing this inventory will cost up to $1 billion ($450 million in existing inventories, and the additional cost of replacing the inventories with more expensive components, plus labor costs). Many communities had assumed that  previously purchased fixtures would not be subject to the EPAs rule and that the change would only apply to newly purchased fixtures (after the compliance date of January 4, 2014).

“Our local communities have invested millions to protect our drinking water and making them flush what they’ve already bought is a disservice,” said Enzi. “Saving even thousands of dollars makes a difference to these communities and my legislation would help prevent needless waste of taxpayers’ money.”

Drink water fixture inventories are very costly and scrapping, and replacing, them could result in an economic hardship in the communities, according to Enzi.

“Local governments know better than the federal government that their citizens’ money doesn’t grow on trees. They don’t have the benefit of spending money they don’t have and raising their own credit limit. As a mayor, I’ve seen firsthand how tough budgeting in rural communities can be. Anything we can do help them save money, especially in such a simple way, should be a priority for Congress.”

Enzi hopes the Senate majority will see the sense in this bill and join him in support of the legislation which will benefit their communities as well.

Cosponsors of the legislation include Senators John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), Jim Risch (R-Idaho), Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), and John Thune (R-S.D.).