Water-guzzling toilets are on the way back if a new bill introduced in the House is passed.

The Plumbing Standards Improvement Act of 1999, H.R. 623, would eliminate the provisions installed by the 1992 Energy Policy Act (EPAct 1992). The 1992 law made 1.6 gallon per flush toilets and 2.5 gallons per minute showerheads the national standard.

A House subcommittee hearing in late July drew national attention to the bill. Members of the Plumbing-Heating-Cooling-Contractors - National Association and the Plumbing Manufacturers Institute testified at the meeting.

The PHCC opposes H.R. 623 because it believes it is bad for the environment, business community and consumers.

The continued use of low consumption toilets is a wise and prudent move that will ensure future generations have access to clean, potable water," said George Whalen, former president and executive director of the Plumbing Foundation of the city of New York. Representing the PHCC, Whalen said switching to water-efficient plumbing fixtures could save the average household as much as $50 to $100 a year on water and wastewater bills.

"The plumbing products provisions of EPAct 1992 have begun to realize their enormous potential to help the environment while costing taxpayers, our government and consumers virtually nothing," said David Goike, of the Masco Corp. "Such a report card is rarely issued on government programs."

The flushing of toilets accounts for almost 40 percent of all water consumed in the average house. Every day, more than 5 billion gallons of water is flushed down the drain, according to the PHCC-NA. Los Angeles saves more than 9 billion gallons of water every year because of the low-flush toilets. Americans save $11.3 million every day on their water bill.

Joe Knollenberg (R-Mich.) reintroduced this bill after his original bill, H.R. 859, failed to reach a vote last year. Knollenberg was running for re-election last year. H.R. 623 will stay in Congress until at least Oct. 2000. Sources tell PM that the bill would never pass as a stand alone bill, but instead would be attached to other moving legislation.

"My office has received thousands of phone calls, letters and e-mails from disgruntled consumers who are angry that their new toilets repeatedly clog, require multiple flushing and do not save water," Knollenberg said. Some members of the subcommittee read their statements off a roll of toilet paper, according to reports.

Since the restrictions were enacted, plumbers and supply stores have received some complaints from unsatisfied customers. The current law provides for fines as high as $2,500 for using illegal toilets, but black markets for them have developed across the country. Various news agencies have reported people traveling over the northern border into Canada to purchase 3.5 gpf toilets.

On the other hand, some surveys show strong support for the 1.6 gpf water closet. An independent study to be released by the American Water Works Association later this month points out that 1.6 gpf toilets need to be double flushed the same amount as its old 3.5 gpf counterparts.

PMI is fighting the bill because the repeal could potentially create hundreds, if not thousands, of local regulations. More than 3,000 state and local communities nationwide would be able to determine flow rate requirements. A coalition of fixture manufacturers - including Kohler, Mansfield, Briggs, Gerber and American Standard - joined PMI to fight the bill."We're more concerned about the damage Knollenberg does while moving the bill than the bill actually passing," said Ce Ce Kremer, vice president of government affairs for PMI. "It's making us use resources to fight him rather than using the money and manhours in research and technology."