You may have read, in your local newspaper, a column titled, "News of the Weird." This is a column that has the "stranger than true" news items. As you read them, you wonder if they really are true. Some are so ridiculous, they have to be true.

I collect "Plumbing of the Weird" items. I thought I would present a few. All of these are true, although, some are sad but true.

Item No. 1: You may recall the trial I wrote about recently that took place in Sandwich, Ill., whereby a small industrial building was taken to court because the city declared the waste from its toilet rooms was industrial discharge. When I first wrote about it, I must have really upset the mayor since he submitted a letter to the editor. His letter appeared in the November 2002 issue.

Well, the first trial has been completed. I say that because in the middle of the trial, the judge said that no matter how he rules, his decision will be appealed. A unique attitude for a judge to have. The ruling by the judge was in favor of the city; however, he didn't give the city what they were looking for. They fined the owner $1,000 and required him to install a cleanout in the front of his building that would allow probes to be inserted for testing.

Now the weird part: The cleanout had been installed all along. The city wanted a manhole with a flume. Of course, a flume would obstruct the flow in the drain, resulting in stoppages. The city also wanted a fine in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. After all, the mayor spent in excess of $100,000 to take this case to court. You could say, here is an elected official who knows how to use his taxpayers' dollars wisely.

It frosted the mayor and his attorney when they found out, in court, that all during the three years of dispute, I never charged my good friend anything for assisting him. The mayor still tried to accuse me of doing it for the money in his letter to the editor. I helped out as a favor because I knew my friend was being screwed by the city of Sandwich.

Item No. 2: IAPMO, publishers of the Uniform Plumbing Code, are attempting to have their Plumbing Code switched to an ANSI standard. That may not be important to you, but what that means is that the code is supposed to be fair and unbiased. If you review the current code, most contractors would agree that you could not make those statements about the document.

While trying to update their code, the American Society of Plumbing Engineers (ASPE) submitted a number of code changes to add complete wet venting, circuit venting, waste stack venting, and side wall venting to the code. If you live in the Midwest or on the East Coast, you may be saying, "What, they don't allow these forms of venting?" Believe it or not, these types of venting are not permitted on the West Coast.

Remember ASPE is the premier engineering organization for the plumbing profession. In engineering fashion, they do not submit any code changes unless they are very well documented. Hence, they only had to show that there are more than 80 years of experience using these venting methods in the United States. Furthermore, they had plenty of laboratory data, most from the National Bureau of Standards.

IAPMO relies on its newly developed Standards Council to make final rulings on proposed code changes. The Standards Council ruled against the ASPE changes. The ruling basically said there wasn't enough technical data to support the use of venting methods used in more than half of the United States.

Be aware that IAPMO wants the entire country to use the UPC. Heaven help us if that ever happens with the code as it stands now. Imagine prohibiting venting systems that everyone knows really work.

Item No. 3: Death by water closet. A homicide trial took place the first week of December 2002 in Eagle River, Wis. The case involved a man accused of murdering his wife by either drug overdose or drowning in a water closet. As reported in the local newspaper, the husband said that he found his wife with her head in the water closet.

The husband said that his wife was distraught and committed suicide. After consuming a large quantity of painkillers, the wife vomited in the water closet, then supposedly drowned in the water closet with her head in the bowl.

The prosecutor brought the actual water closet into a hearing to prove that it is impossible to drown in the bowl if you pass out. The defense changed their strategy and then said that the drug overdose killed her.

The prosecutor accused the husband of killing his wife by holding her head down in the water closet bowl when she went to vomit the painkillers he forced down her throat. The wife had planned to move out on her husband that day, hence the prosecutor didn't believe she was distraught or suicidal.

The husband was convicted of murder by the jury.

News of the weird even happens in the plumbing profession. Unfortunately, the last item resulted in the death of a young 28-year-old woman. When I was researching the last story, I found other water closet drowning incidents involving infants. In many of those cases, a parent was accused of drowning their child in the water closet.