by Kelly Faloon

The New York Labor Department is beginning to enforce a restriction on plastic pipe, including PVC, in new construction that was passed by the state’s legislature in 2001.

Article 10-A of New York’s labor law states that plastic pipe, including ABS and PVC, can only be used in sanitary drainage piping of one- and two-family homes or “multiple dwellings” of six stories or less. All other buildings must use copper, cast-iron, wrought iron, galvanized steel, or other approved piping materials. CPVC, PEX and PEX-AL-PEX also can be used in the water distribution piping for single- and two-family homes.

Some local governments continued approving the use of plastic pipe for new construction citing existing state building codes that do allow the use of PVC. The Plastics News reported that the state’s labor department, on a tip from a representative of the United Association of Plumbers and Pipefitters Union Local 267, began investigating new construction projects in Onondaga County. The department then informed about 30 businesses that they could face misdemeanor charges for using PVC pipe.

“The real victims here are the people of New York, whose jobs and development opportunities are now hostage to the New York State Labor Law, which restricts the use of plastic pipe to residential buildings six stories or less in height,” Richard Church, executive director of the Plastic Pipe and Fittings Association, told Plumbing & Mechanical. “The inclusion or exclusion by law of an otherwise accepted building product does more than erode the potential marketplace for the manufacturer. It limits consumer choices, often to more expensive and less durable options.”

A spokesman for the New York Fire Prevention and Building Code Council told Plastics News that the labor law takes precedence until the restriction expires at the end of 2004. But Onondaga County is considering asking a judge to rule on the issue.

Meanwhile, the New York State Senate recently introduced a bill to amend the labor law regarding penalties for use of nonstandard plumbing materials. Bill S05709 exempts from penalties anyone using “nonstandard” plumbing materials, such as plastic pipe, as long as the use was permitted by a local jurisdiction enforcing a building code or by a local health department.