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What Plumbers Have in Common with Ancient Rome

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Ever since the ancients invented plumbing, there’s been a need for plumbers. In fact, the word “plumber” comes from the Latin “plumbum,” meaning “lead,” because the metal pipes used in ancient Rome and its colonies were made of lead, a metal that was relatively easy to obtain, plentiful, more durable than clay, and which could readily be cast, folded, and beaten into shape. Of course, it may be that the name “plumber” is a bit of a misnomer nowadays, because we’ve learned that lead is not a good way to keep or distribute water for human use. Lead salts leach into water quite easily, and they are highly toxic. Some scientists have plausibly suggested that lead poisoning even caused the fall of Rome, since the leading classes kept killing themselves off not only by using water from lead pipes, but by cooking in stylish lead pots as well.

Why bring up ancient history in the context of modern plumbing, though? After all, federal, state, and municipal building codes long ago deprecated lead plumbing, and modern contractors would laugh at any suggestion of using it. But there are still some old buildings that do have lead pipes. You may own one, or you may be thinking of buying one. If so, then you’re positively going to need a plumber who can remove your legacy pipes and fixtures, and install—well, pretty much a whole new system. At least, replace everything made of lead. And undoubtedly, if you have a house like that, you’re already facing some of the usual problems that come with an aging building, even if you didn’t have to be concerned about safety and health, not to say convenience.

Plumbers have come a long way since the days of ancient Rome. A plumbing firm has to be expert in areas even your grandparents never thought of—from efficient modern plumbing materials and techniques to ecological and environmental practices like recycling, graywater recovery and treatment, hydronics, and the installation of fire-protection systems which use fire-retardant or fire-extinguishing chemicals rather than water. They also have to be thoroughly cognizant of all the latest regulations and codes, especially since the EPA has tightened the definition of “lead free” and made the standards for fittings and pipes a lot stricter since the passage of the U.S. Safe Drinking Water Act, which has all but eliminated even the hint of lead use in any and all plumbing materials. You see? The more things change, the more they stay the same. Modern plumbers are still concerned with lead, just as his ancient title implies.

Plumber Seattle Puget Sound Plumbing and Heating - Melissa Buckingham is the Operations Manager for Seattle-based Puget Sound Plumbing and Heating. A graduate of the University of Washington Business School, Melissa has been involved in the plumbing industry for more than 20 years. As a leader of the company, she believes that experience and knowledge are the fundamental building blocks to business success, and with regard to plumbing, she is passionate about plumbing as a means to protect the health of the citizenry.

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