A draft of an Environmental Impact Report on chlorinated polyvinyl chloride (CPVC) from California’s Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) found the material is "safe and durable … highly suited to delivering potable water in a variety of applications." The ruling, released June 30, opens the door for CPVC to be permanently allowed in California’s building code.
CPVC is currently not allowed to be installed in new residential units in California. Copper is the only material currently allowed by state building codes. The building code would be amended to say: "CPVC water pipe and tubing may be used for hot and cold water distribution systems with a building."
"It’s unfortunate the copper industry was not asked to participate in the EIR process until near the end, when the report was essentially complete," said Robert Payne, Copper Development Association president. "It’s important for HCD and the people of California to know all the facts about copper and why it’s the nation’s plumbing standard."
A legal battle has been brewing in California since 1995, when the Baca Bill was passed to temporarily allow CPVC into jurisdictions that applied for approval. Since the Baca Bill expired Dec. 31, contractors wanting to install CPVC in homes had to apply on a case-by-case basis. The Miller Bill was defeated in May 1997 in California’s Finance Committee. It would have permanently enabled homeowners to choose CPVC piping as an alternative to copper without added paperwork.
BFGoodrich, the main manufacturer of CPVC piping, has been aggressively pursuing California legislation because its product will be in high demand in several jurisdictions. Areas with low pH levels throughout California continuously cause pitting in copper piping. CPVC piping does not corrode or pit in the presence of aggressive watery.
Copper piping has been an industry standard for more than 70 years. CPVC is currently used in every other state and all industrialized countries worldwide.
"This has been a very interesting struggle," said John Taul, the southwestern representative for BFGoodrich. "Builders have been calling me to find out what they can do to protect themselves. Before CPVC they installed thicker copper piping to buy more time before it pitted."
The study is one of the final steps to allow CPVC into the building code. It had been slowed by allegations from the unions concerning flammability and worker safety issues.
The EIR said it "does not agree the number of pipefitters and plumbers that are significantly injured on the job would increase if CPVC pipe were allowed to be used in residential potable water systems."
Industry insiders told PM in September 1997 that the legal battle was being dragged out because the California Pipe Trades Union wanted to protect its turf. CPVC can be easily installed by non-union workers, which translates into less hours and pay for union workers.
The public can comment on the report until Aug. 29, when the 60–day review period for the draft expires. All comments must be submitted in writing to the organization. The final report is expected to be on Governor Pete Wilson’s desk by Jan. 1.
"We hope the HCD will now allow us to work as closely with them as the B.F. Goodrich Company did in preparation of the EIR," Payne said. "By doing so, the legitimate environmental concerns of Californians can be fully addressed, and any recommended revisions to the California Building Standards can be dealt with intelligently."
Copies of the draft can be found at http://housing.hcd.ca.gov