The findings and credibility of a Ductile Iron Pipe Research Association (DIPRA) funded study (DIPRA is the iron pipe industry association) promoting ductile iron pipe are being called into serious question, following news that its authors grossly misrepresented an esteemed academic, attributing statements to him that were never made.

The authors of DIPRA’s University of Michigan (UMI) report claimed Dr. Steven Folkman, Director of Utah State University’s Buried Structures Laboratory -- who has extensively analyzed the break rates of different pipe materials  – stated that the life expectancy of PVC pipe was limited to between 41 and 60 years.

The only problem, of course, is that Mr. Folkman made no such statement in his 2012 report, “Water Main Brake Rates in the USA and Canada: A Comprehensive Study, April 2012.” In a letter written to the authors of the DIPRA-UMI study Mr. Folkman writes:

“[Your study] references a paper I did in 2012 on ‘Water Main Break Rates in the USA and Canada’ and claim[s] that I stated that the expected life of PVC pipe is 41-60 years. There is no such statement in that paper. …”

Dr. Folkman goes on to point out in his letter that the DIPRA-UMI report also ignores a plethora of studies showing PVC pipe’s longevity to be in excess of 100 years:

“The paper titled ‘Validation of the Long Life of PVC Pipes’ documents testing done at Utah State University and also reviews papers from 15 other authors from around the world. They all conclude that a properly design and installed PVC pipe will have an expected life in excess of 100 years.”

Of course, DIPRA may position this glaring error as a simple mistake or an isolated oversight.  But it’s worth noting that the only reason it came to light is because Mr. Folkman called UMI out on it.  Which leads us to raise this question: How many other references or statements in the DIPRA-UMI study are incorrect – yet haven’t been publicly exposed? Lots more as it turns out.

The study claims that ductile iron pipe maintains its pumping efficiency for 100 years and that its thinner-walled iron pipes last a century as well, figures which are used in the study’s pipe modeling to artificially bolster iron pipe performance and reduce PVC’s, and do not reflect real life conditions. On its own web site DIPRA gives ductile iron pipes a 50 year life. The American Water Works Association has concluded that ductile iron pipe in moderately corrosive soils may only last 11-14 years.  

What’s more, a recent City of Detroit analysis shows that the pumping efficiency for ductile iron pipe continually declines with age and do not remain at factory specifications as the DIPRA-UMI report claims.

We at Vinyl Verified maintain that academics who conduct research at reputable institutions – who expect their findings to be taken seriously – must ensure that the facts they cite and the information they use to support their assertions are indeed accurate and above reproach.  DIPRA and UMI research failed, flatly, in adhering to this basic, important standard. As such, readers have every right to wonder if DIPRA’s ongoing campaign to disparage PVC -- in an effort to protect its monopoly – have unduly influenced the results of this study.