The Plumbing Industry Leadership Coalition met in June to address three topics we’ve discussed in this column in recent months: the federal law on no-lead plumbing products; the next generation of plumbing industry professionals; and the nation’s aging infrastructure.
Formed a year ago, PILC seeks to give the plumbing industry a unified — and more forceful voice — on legislative matters and other important issues. Another goal is to improve the plumbing industry’s image, which the higher profile would help it to accomplish. We support both objectives as being very worthwhile.
PILC brings together the executives of associations representing contractors, engineers, distributors, manufacturers, code officials, water quality specialists, labor and other professionals. Leaders of the group are Jim Kendzel of the American Society of Plumbing Engineers, Russ Chaney of the International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials and Barbara Higgens of Plumbing Manufacturers International.
Also participating in the meeting were Gerry Kennedy, executive vice president of the Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Con-tractors – National Association; Sean McGuire, director of industry programs at the Mechanical Contractors Association of America; Tom Bigley, director of plumbing services for the United Association; and Mike Adelizzi, executive vice president of the American Supply Association.
They discussed these issues:
• No-lead plumbing.Federal legislation that will ban the installation of leaded plumbing products in potable water applications will go into effect less than six months after the PILC meeting. Some meeting attendees expressed dismay that the government still has not issued rules on how the law will be enforced. Questions on testing, labeling and certifying plumbing products also remain.
Shortly before the meeting, the EPA issued an 11-page draft document on frequently asked questions about the new law. It’s available at www.tinyurl.com/draft-faq-on-lead-law. Most of the FAQs address the manufacture, installation and retail sale of plumbing products. For example, the EPA says its initial efforts will focus on getting plumbers to comply with the new law rather than taking an “enforcement action” against them. However, plumbers who install leaded products that violate the law could be the subject of a civil lawsuit or state enforcement action.
Members of PILC agreed during their meeting to submit a consensus document of their comments by EPA’s June 21 deadline, but they later discovered that the 15 days between their meeting and EPA’s deadline was insufficient to do so.
• Workforce development.With construction activity increasing, the need to attract the next generation of plumbing contractors, engineers, wholesalers and labor is growing more evident. Nearly a quarter of industry executives surveyed recently by consultant FMI expect severe shortages of construction laborers a year from now, along with a shortage of select craft tradesmen, including plumbers.
PILC members heard from Bryan Albrecht, president of Gateway Technical College in Racine, Wis., and Roger Tadajewski, executive director of the National Coalition of Certification Centers. They said their public/private training partnership represents a new model of technical training, and they enlisted PILC’s support in getting the plumbing industry more involved in their initiative.
With the need for qualified employees growing more acute at every level of the plumbing industry, PILC should support programs such as this to develop the industry’s workforce.
• Aging infrastructure.Brian Pallasch of the American Society of Civil Engineers sought PILC’s support in its efforts to upgrade the nation’s infrastructure. Earlier this year the ASCE gave the country’s infrastructure an overall grade of D+ in its report card, which it issues every four years. In categories that relate specifically to the plumbing industry, drinking water, wastewater and schools each earned a D grade, while energy received a D+ on ASCE’s report card.
While not discussed specifically during the PILC meeting, the Water Resources Development Bill had received overwhelming bipartisan support a month earlier in the U.S. Senate and now is awaiting House approval. Included within the legislation is the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Bill, which would assist water utilities in replacing water pipes. WRDB has received broad support from construction industry groups, such as the American Water Works Association and PMI. With AWWA and PMI already on board, PILC should encourage the House to approve this legislation.
The plumbing industry can benefit from the unified voice PILC can and should provide. Just as important in moving the industry forward, however, is the individual involvement of the members of the associations that PILC represents.