Iron water pipes were installed underground years ago because, at the time, it was one of the only materials that could do the job. But now these pipes are failing at an alarming rate, causing insufferable disruptions to our everyday lives.
Fortunately, innovative materials such as PVC pipe exist today that are more durable and affordable, and can bring our water infrastructure well into the 22nd Century. But in a desperate attempt to protect its monopoly, the iron pipe industry is engaging in a campaign of lies and distortions about our industry.
The fear of losing control over the market has become so real that the iron pipe lobby is now trying to ban PVC pipe from consideration in cities across America, a move that would restrict competition and severely impact taxpayers.
Officials in Pleasanton, Calif., estimate that ductile iron pipe is 70 percent more expensive than PVC pipe, and note that PVC pipe failures are "extremely rare." It's no wonder the Ductile Iron Pipe Research Association, the industry's leading trade group, finds itself scurrying as it tries to compete against PVC pipe's rising popularity.
But that doesn't give DIPRA the right to fabricate its own set of facts about PVC pipe, which it uses to mislead the public. DIPRA has stooped so low, in fact, that its president, Jon Runge, has been promoting a study that he knows contains false information to advance his group's anti-PVC campaign. The report, which DIPRA commissioned, falsely quotes the findings of Dr. Stephen Folkman, a preeminent expert on pipe durability. And when Dr. Folkman confronted the study's authors about it, they ignored him. Dr. Folkman even wrote a letter to Mr. Runge himself — and it, too, was ignored.
In other words, DIPRA is relying on a study that's been publicly rebuked for spreading false information about PVC pipe — yet its president continues to use it to perpetuate deceptions about our industry. And does so under the so-called premise of "correcting the record."
The facts are clear: PVC pipe lasts more than 100 years. And costs less. DIPRA calls that "cheap." We'd argue "efficient," "safe" and a better spend of taxpayer money would be a more accurate description. Allow us to correct the record: PVC pipe outlasts corrosion-prone ductile iron pipes.
A National Academy of Sciences committee review on corrosion prevention standards found that ductile iron pipe is not reliable beyond 50-years in corrosive soils. In some areas, such as Colorado Springs, Colo., ductile iron pipes had to be replaced with non-metallic ones after only 18 years. Metallic pipes are highly prone to corrosion as we've witnessed in Flint, Mich., Washington, D.C., and Pittsburgh, Pa., among many other U.S. cities. PVC, on the other hand, is corrosion-proof — making it a durable and sustainable choice for all soil and weather conditions.
PVC pipe is certified for clean and safe water delivery. PVC meets or exceeds all required health and safety regulations. And PVC pipe has been independently certified by the global health organization National Sanitation Foundation International. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency even replaced its own drinking water product advisory program with the NSF International standards in 1990.
Leaks, primarily caused by corroding metallic pipes, lead to an estimated 2.6 trillion gallons of drinking water wasted each year. Corrosion can cause metallic pipes to break — resulting in an annual loss of approximately 17 percent of our nation's water supply. According to infrastructure expert Gregory M Baird, there is a $50+ billion drain on the U.S. economy due to repairs, lost water, and programs to slow down corrosion.
PVC pipe is affordable — saving taxpayers millions of dollars. PVC pipe is saving Burton, MI nearly $2.2 million in replacing 19 miles of corroded iron pipe. But what DIPRA won't tell you is that it lobbies to exclude competing materials, such as PVC pipe, from even being considered as an option in replacing corrosive-prone iron pipe. DIPRA wants to close bidding across our nation to benefit its members' outdated piping systems, where they can set the price and control the market — at the expense of American taxpayers.
Conversely, PVC pipe makers want an open bidding process — where transparency and increased competition spur innovation, and where all water pipe material options can bid. And where quality, performance, durability and cost are examined to help drive informed selection decisions. It's the right approach to our nation's deteriorating water infrastructure.
As the iron pipe industry will soon discover, business monopolies have always been on the wrong side of history. PVC pipe has earned the right to have a seat at every table across the country where decisions about the future of our nation's water infrastructure are being made. And it will happen, as the grip of the iron pipe industry progressively loosens to the demands of U.S. taxpayers who recognize the lunacy of paying more to have an inferior material replace their deteriorating water systems.
Richard Doyle is president & CEO of the Vinyl Institute. Thinking of submitting an op-ed to the Washington Examiner? Be sure to read our guidelines on submissions.