FRANKLIN — State and city officials were on hand Friday as Watts Water Technologies Inc. officially unveiled its new $20 million, 30,000-square-foot Franklin foundry designed to produce lead-free plumbing products.
The foundry, which began operations in May and is projected to reach full operations this month, is part of the Watts Water Franklin Facility, which was once known as Webster Valve. The Watts Franklin foundry, with more than 400 employees, is the company's largest manufacturing plant in North America, making valves and other water-control products.
It is now manufacturing lead-free versions of plumbing products already made at the Franklin facility, such as backflow prevention parts and pressure regulators, company officials said.
The new foundry was built in response to the new federal Lead Free law, which takes effect on Jan. 4, 2014. Lead plumbing products are a health risk as they can pass the deadly chemical element on to humans when lead plumbing products make contact with water.
"We're making a big investment into a dedicated foundry that will provide truly lead-free products to our customers," said Tim O'Neill, a company vice president. "In the process, we are investing in the New Hampshire community."
Gov. Maggie Hassan said the North Andover, Mass.-based company's investment in the city of Franklin, and thus in the state, is important.
"I find it incredibly encouraging," she said.
Rep. Leigh Webb, D-Merrimack District 3 and a Franklin resident, said the foundry's construction is quite significant to the state's business climate.
"What's good for Watts Water Technology is good for Franklin. What's good for Franklin is good for all of us," Webb said.
Watts Water Technologies, founded 138 years ago, has 6,000 people employed at the company's 70 facilities around the world. The original Webster Valve plant was established on 42 acres of land in Franklin after Watts outgrew the capabilities of its original manufacturing plant in Lawrence, Mass.
The former Webster Valve plant has undergone 16 expansions in the past 51 years.
In 1977, a 44,000-square-foot foundry was added, and in 2003, Watts also added a 43,000- square-foot regional distribution center to the Franklin plant.