Following a nationwide movement against lead wheel weights, the Washington legislature has approved a bill to end their use within the state effective Jan. 1, 2011.
The billwhich establishes fines of up to $1,000 for using lead weightspassed the Washington Senate April 13 by a 29-18 vote, then the House April 16 by 67 to 30. It goes to Gov. Christine Gregoire, who is expected to sign it into law.
News of the Washington legislation comes in the wake of various efforts to phase out the use of lead wheel weights throughout the U.S.
On Aug. 29, 2008, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) unveiled its National Lead Free Wheel Weight Initiative, a voluntary program designed to reduce significantly the number of lead wheel weights in the U.S. by the end of 2011.
Bridgestone Firestone Retail and Commercial Operations L.L.C. joined the EPA in the program's launch at the Detroit Grand Prix. Other charter members of the initiative include Goodyear; Hennessy Industries Inc.; Perfect Equipment Inc.; Plombco Inc.; the U.S. Air Force; the General Services Administration; the U.S. Postal Service; Wal-Mart Stores Inc.; the Sierra Club; the Association of International Automobile Manufacturers; and Detroit's three domestic auto makers.
Chrysler L.L.C., Perfect Industries, Hennessy and Plombco also agreed last year to stop distributing lead wheel weights in California by the end of 2009. The corporations took the action to settle a lawsuit brought in California Superior Court by the Center for Environmental Health, but had already begun their own programs to increase the use of lead-free weights.
Plombco already has stopped distributing lead weights in California, having agreed to a deadline of Dec. 31, 2008.
Section I of the Washington bill repeats the common environmental charges against lead weights.
Lead wheel weights on and alongside roadways can contribute to soil, surface and groundwater contamination and pose hazards to downstream aquatic life, the section states. While it is injurious to people of all ages, lead is especially harmful to fetuses, children, and adults of childbearing age.
The section does not mention the EPA voluntary initiative to phase out lead weights but states merely that there are no federal regulatory controls governing use of lead weights.
Beginning Jan. 1, 2011, the bill states, people who change or balance tires in Washington state must replace lead wheel weights with environmentally preferred alternatives as listed by the Washington Department of Ecology.
The bill charges the department with issuing its environmentally preferred list by Oct. 1, 2010. However, tire changers may use lead-free alternatives that aren't on the environmentally preferred list for up to two years after the list is issued.
If tire changers fail to comply with the lead ban after Jan. 1, 2011, the Department of Ecology will send warning letters. Those who continue to ignore the warnings after one year are subject to fines of up to $500 for the first violation and $1,000 for subsequent violations. Money from such fines will go into the state's toxic control account.
The Northwest Tire Dealers Association (NWTDA) opposed previous anti-lead bills in Washington state, largely because there were few alternatives to lead, said Dick Nordness, the group's executive director.
But although the association disagrees with the first section of the bill, the greater availability of lead-free weights allowed it to support the legislation, Mr. Nordness told Tire Business. He noted that many NWTDA membersincluding Les Schwab Tire Centers Inc., the largest tire retailer in the Northwesthave already gone the lead-free route.
We all have to realize this is going to happen, Mr. Nordness said regarding the phaseout of lead weights. We wouldn't have volunteered to go in this direction, but considering there are alternatives, we were willing to support the bill.
Tire Business Senior Washington Reporter Miles Moore can be reached at [email protected]