The Annex G Debate
Normally, when I receive a number of requests to write an article on a given subject matter, I shy away from such requests. Not because the subject may be controversial. Heck, I have never shied away from controversy. It is simply that there tends to be a hidden agenda in which someone is trying to gain an advantage.
Recently, I have received numerous requests related to Annex G of NSF 61. Many of you may be asking, what is Annex G? Simply stated, it is the response from the NSF Joint Committee on Drinking Water Additives to the California law restricting the amount of lead in plumbing products. Basically, the Annex provides a methodology of determining if a product has less than 0.25 percent lead in the components exposed to the drinking water.
One of the first requirements in Annex G is that the plumbing product complies with the full requirements of NSF 61. The full requirements determine the health effects of a product and whether it is safe to be used for drinking water.
Uproar Follows Its ReleaseThe ink was barely dry on the pages of the Annex G document when the uproar began about its interpretation.
Many have expressed a concern that Annex G is not approved by the State of California. Others have called the requirement foolish and not following the intent of the law. Still others are saying that manufacturers cannot claim they comply with California law because they are listed to Annex G.
In defense of Annex G, the NSF Committee was simply responding to the California law on lead in plumbing products. The Annex is just a response to the politics. If anything is foolish, it is the legislators in California for passing such a law. When they passed the law, they provided no guidelines regarding product compliance. With the absence of guidelines, the NSF Committee responded.
Being a member of the NSF Joint Committee on Drinking Water Additives, I can tell you that I was originally opposed to Annex G. I am still opposed, but not for the reasons you may think. I believe that Annex G diminishes the high quality of NSF 61 by providing a response to a foolish California law.
Rather than being an Annex to NSF 61, I believe that the requirements should be developed into a separate standard. Currently, that is what is being prepared through the NSF process. In the meantime, we still have Annex G.
Any listing agency can use Annex G to establish whether a plumbing product has 0.25 percent or less lead. If a manufacturer’s product is listed to Annex G, the company can also claim that the product conforms to California law. There is nothing in the California law that prohibits this.
Annex G has not been adopted by the State of California. It doesn’t have to be. However, if Annex G is adopted by the state, all is good.
As my brother, the environmental attorney from California, will tell you, a manufacturer can claim compliance with the California law until the courts tell the manufacturer that they cannot. The final ruling rests with the courts, not the legislators or bureaucrats.
But, as my attorney brother also tells me, it is better to have a national consensus standard to support your position for compliance with the law than a self-certification. The courts tend to look favorably on consensus standards.
Claiming ComplianceAnnex G has not been tested in the courts in California. It cannot be for some time. While the legislation on lead in plumbing products has passed, it has not yet been enacted. Hence, no court will hear a case until the law has been enacted.
In the meantime, manufacturers can continue to claim compliance with the California lead laws by being listed to Annex G of NSF 61. If I were a manufacturer, that’s what I would do.
If I were a testing laboratory, I would be certifying products to Annex G. Why not, that’s what the manufacturers want.
By the time the California law becomes effective, I expect to see many manufacturers showing compliance with a listing to Annex G. The more products that are listed, the stronger Annex G becomes in the eyes of the law. As the old adage goes, it is hard to stop a freight train barreling down the tracks. That is what the manufacturers are hoping for, and who can blame them.
The manufacturers have done their homework. They worked with the consensus committee to develop a protocol. There are representatives from the State of California that serve on the NSF Committee, including individuals from various water utilities. They certainly know California law.
Engineers who specify plumbing products in California can also use Annex G. This can be added to their specifications as a means of showing compliance with the California lead law. I would expect most engineers to add two requirements to their specifications. The first would be to mandate that all plumbing products in contact with drinking water comply with the California no-lead law. The second would be to require these same products to comply with Annex G of NSF 61.
The doubling up on requirements is a typical engineering “belts and suspenders” specification. By having both requirements, you are covering your bases. Then it becomes the manufacturers’ responsibility to determine whether they comply with California law. Nobody can come back to the engineer and say that they did not comply with the law.
By the way, it is not just California that has enacted the no-lead law. Vermont has also passed one similar. Other states are pending.
As states continue to pass these laws, at least the industry has Annex G to respond to the legislation. Perhaps one of these days the state legislators will just adopt the Plumbing Codes. They should realize that the Plumbing Codes have proper requirements for keeping lead out of drinking water with a reference to NSF 61. Then everyone’s concern regarding Annex G will disappear.