Scott Wedel: Rigid rules
August 4, 2012
I have been remodeling a house in Oak Creek. As part of pulling a building permit, the town of Oak Creek requires that a water meter be installed. I have found the town of Oak Creek's rigidity to unwritten rules very difficult to work with and counterproductive. Note that water meters are still not read to affect billing, and the town — as it has for decades — still only has vague plans to someday bill based upon water usage.
The first issue is that the town requires the property owner to purchase at full retail price not just the meter, but also a full set of "appurtenances" for $379.32. The appurtenances include $104 for a brass shutoff vale and a brass check flow that do not meet NSF/ANSI 61 standards for lead.
States like California and cities like New York City already require NSF 61-compliant parts. It takes effect nationally in January 2014. Because it is already required in major population centers, plumbing manufacturers already sell NSF 61-compliant parts. In fact, local plumbing distributors already stock only NSF 61-compliant parts.
I did not want to install parts known to have lead when I could just as easily install new lead-free parts I purchased locally. The Town of Oak Creek required that I install the high-lead brass parts they provided. Other regional water districts told me they are more flexible and would accept different shut off and check valves as long as they worked properly and the water district could easily replace the water meter if need be.
I have gone before the Town Board and described these issues. Town Board members promised to "investigate" but in two months have made no progress.
Considering the health issue of lead, I think it is wrong that the Town of Oak Creek insists that I, and those who follow, install many high-lead parts.
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Considering the wide variety of situations that will be encountered in trying to retrofit water meters into homes plumbed with no expectation of water meters and the need of water meters to be protected from freezing temperatures, I think the town's insistence of installing their configuration adds a needlessly difficult challenge to the homeowner.
Thus, I caution Oak Creek homeowners to be prepared for difficulties if starting a home improvement project that requires a building permit.