California Builders Win Long Fight to Use Plastic Water Piping
SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- California homebuilders on Monday won the right to use less-expensive plastic water piping instead of copper, ending a two-decade-long battle against groups that warned of plastic's potential health hazards.
Developers called the decision by the California Building Standards Commission a victory for consumers because it will reduce plumbing costs in new homes and when doing retrofits.
"Forty-nine other states use the product. We now have a 25-year history of this product in use," said Dennis Beddard, general counsel of the California Department of Housing and Community Development, which drafted the regulation. "It clearly demonstrates this product can be used safely."
Chlorinated PolyVinyl Chloride, otherwise known as CPVC piping, is a sturdy material that -- unlike most plastics -- holds up even when filled with hot water. That makes it an ideal substitute for the metal pipes traditionally used in homes. It also costs several thousand dollars less in a typical home than copper piping.
But environmental concerns and fire hazards prompted state regulators to ban its use in drinking-water lines throughout the state.
Environmental and consumer groups have argued that chemicals in the type of plastic piping preferred by the industry are dangerous, leaching into the soil and contaminating water that eventually runs out the faucet.
Labor groups had sought to protect workers from the fumes given off by the glue used to fit the pipes together, while fire officials warned of the toxic fumes CPVC emits when it burns.
Arkansas restricts the use of CPVC pipes, while the cities of New York, Chicago and Nacogdoches, Texas, ban it, according to the Safe Building Materials Coalition, a California group representing groups that oppose the material's widespread use.
The regulations adopted unanimously Monday by the 11-member commission are expected to be made final early next year. They will give builders the option to install the cheaper plastic pipes anywhere in the nation's most populous state.
Tom Enslow, an attorney with the building materials coalition, said his members may consider a lawsuit to stop the widespread use of the pipe. The coalition includes the Sierra Club, Consumer Federation of California, Communities for a Better Environment and the California State Pipe Trades Council, which represents laborers.
Source: Associated Press