Brian McNicoll – a self-identified “freelance writer” – authored a recent piece on advancing many of the same falsehoods perpetuated in DIPRA’s own talking points.  

(For the record, Merriam-Webster defines “freelance” as “earning money by being hired to work on different jobs for short periods of time rather than by having a permanent job with one employer.”)

We couldn’t help but wonder how McNicoll, who by our research has never written on water infrastructure issues before, would be such an impassioned advocate for ductile iron pipe. And in doing so, cite a deeply obscure – and seriously flawed – study financed by DIPRA to help advance his case.  

Seems rather peculiar, doesn’t it?

Unless he … well …  

Let’s put that aside for a minute and focus on dismantling his assertions.

The study McNicoll uses to advance his argument? DIPRA paid for it. McNicoll repeatedly refers to a University of Michigan (UMI) study to promote his support for ductile iron pipe.  But nowhere does McNicoll point out to readers that the study was sponsored by DIPRA, which represents ductile iron pipe manufacturers. Any self-described “independent journalist” would make sure readers knew about this rather important fact … right? 

Unless he … well …   

The DIPRA-backed study McNicoll cites contains a blatant and disqualifying inaccuracy.  The UMI study incorrectly quoted Dr. Steven Folkman, who has extensively analyzed the break rates of different types of water pipes. The glaring error prompted a terse rebuke by Dr. Folkman himself, who in a letter to the study’s authors, wrote:

“[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. …” 

Such an egregious misstatement by UMI raises serious concerns regarding the integrity of the entire study. So why didn’t McNicoll point this out to readers? After all, if he was able to find the obscure UMI study for his article, it’s reasonable to think he would have also seen our public response to it, which we posted last month. Why didn’t he include it in his story?

Unless he … well …

Other facts missing from McNicoll’s column include: 

PVC pipe has a life expectancy in excess of 100 years. Dr. Folkman’s same letter clarifies his conclusive finding that, based on his own testing at Utah State University -- and analysis by 15 other authors across the world – “a properly designed and installed PVC pipe will have an expected life in excess of 100 years.” Why wasn’t this addressed in McNicoll’s column?

Break-rate studies show PVC is resilient in freezing conditions. McNicoll cites the concerns by Flint’s mayor regarding the harsh weather conditions as a reason to use ductile iron pipes. But Dr. Folkman’s Utah State University study proves that “PVC pipes offer a high degree of resilience in freezing conditions.” Why didn’t McNicoll include this in his piece?

PVC also can save taxpayers millions of dollars. McNicoll ignores Flint’s neighbor Burton, MI, which is saving almost $2.2 million after replacing 19 miles of dilapidated iron pipe with PVC pipe. And nowhere does McNicoll address the cost and other impacts of corrosive-prone iron pipe, which is why municipalities like Burton are making the switch to durable, affordable PVC pipe.

If McNicoll is truly concerned about the state of the nation’s aging water infrastructure, why did he conceal these crucial facts in his column?

Unless he … well …