Lobby groups that hypocritically condemn the conduct of competing industries should spend a little time in front of the mirror before casting their aspersions.

The Ductile Iron Pipe Research Association (DIPRA) reignited its long running disinformation campaign against PVC pipe in recent weeks. Patrick Hogan, DIPRA’s president, wrote this op-ed replete with inaccuracies and misleading assertions about our material.  But among his statements, he insinuates that the views of certain experts who have been outspoken in advancing the facts about PVC pipe shouldn’t be trusted because they’ve received financial support, he alleges, from the PVC industry.

That’s an interesting observation coming from Mr. Hogan. Because for the past several years, individuals with obscure-sounding organizations – with zero experience or history on water infrastructure matters – have come out of the woodwork to deceive the public about PVC pipe. And their positions sound strikingly similar to those promoted by DIPRA.

We’ve addressed that here, here, and here. Of course, it’s certainly possible these “experts” woke up one morning and were overcome with an unbridled desire to weigh in on the intricacies of piping used in municipal water systems when they’ve never addressed the topic before. But most reasonable observers would likely wonder if these agents are being financially sponsored to do it. Readers are right to question that, and draw their own conclusions regarding their credibility.

Take, for example, this recent piece by Matthew Kandrach with the indistinctly named “Consumer Action for a Strong Economy,” which appeared in the equally indistinctly named outlet “InsideSources.com.” Once again, we could find no prior articles by Mr. Kandrach on water infrastructure. And yet he writes passionately about water pipe materials, and makes the laughable claim that the PVC pipe industry has been trying to limit pipe material competition for municipalities around the nation.  

That dishonest assertion is about as reliable as antiquated, thinner-walled ductile iron pipe water mains, which studies show are prone to breaking and may last only 11-14 years in moderately corrosive soils.  This is particularly significant since 75% of water utilities in the U.S. are affected by corrosive soils.

That’s why a recent study by world-renowned Utah State University’s (USU) Buried Structures Laboratory reports a 23% increase in the acceptance of corrosion-proof PVC pipe water pipe by North American utilities since 2012.  As well, USU confirms PVC pipe has the lowest water main break rate of all pipe materials.

The PVC pipe industry proudly supports open material competition – something DIPRA has fought tooth and nail at every turn to stop. In fact, DIPRA has spent vast resources at the federal, state and local levels to prevent PVC pipe from even being considered as a replacement material. DIPRA has sent letters, like this one, pressuring municipalities to deny city engineers the ability to choose for themselves what material works best for their respective communities.

DIPRA knows that if a municipality adopts open bidding, it would destroy the industry’s monopolistic grip over some segments of the marketplace, because iron pipe makers would suddenly be forced to justify why their material is better than PVC pipe – a material that lasts twice as long and costs less.  DIPRA also knows that if federal and state governments require that funding provided to localities for piping used in water and sewer projects be spent through fair and competitive procurement processes, its members would have a hard time winning those contracts based purely on the material’s own merits.

Mr. Kandrach (wait for it) is aligned with DIPRA’s motivated view.  But what’s really amusing is to watch Mr. Kandrach try and spin readers to think that “consumer choice” somehow prevails when fewer water pipe material options reach the municipality decision table.

How, exactly, is “choice” preserved when competition is restricted? How, precisely, does consumer choice thrive if iron pipe becomes the only option available to city material decision-makers? And how do consumers win, according to Mr. Kandrach’s flawed logic, if the iron pipe industry maintains a monopoly over segments of the marketplace – and continues to gouge taxpayers by charging city engineers whatever they please?

Mr. Kandrach’s odd position that monopolies are somehow good for American consumers contradicts nearly every other credible economist in the nation. And the public is well within its right to question what his motivation is for advocating such a flawed point-of-view,  which only serves the interests of the iron pipe industry.

DIPRA is well aware that PVC pipe has quickly become the leading water infrastructure replacement material used by municipalities across the country.  There’s good reason for it – PVC pipe has superior durability, it’s easier to install and it’s more energy efficient to transport given its lightweight construction. Its pumping efficiency is better too, since its internal walls stay smooth, unlike ductile iron pipe which degrades over time, driving up pumping costs. All of this makes PVC not only more affordable upfront but in the long term as well, which saves taxpayers money.

And as noted, unlike iron pipe, PVC pipe doesn’t corrode. Ask any engineer in America why our current water infrastructure is crumbling underneath us, and they’ll tell you it’s largely due to iron pipe corrosion.  It’s destroying the integrity of our current water network, and it’s why lawmakers are now forced to spend billions of taxpayer money to replace these old-technology materials.

DIPRA spreads provably false allegations regarding PVC pipe.  But what you won’t hear them say is that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and NSF International all confirm that PVC is a safe product. Some 10 million quality control tests have been conducted on water carried through PVC pipe since it was introduced in North America and around the world. All of them confirm the product is safe and beneficial to public health and safety.

DIPRA has been spewing inaccuracies about PVC pipe like a broken iron water main for years.  They’re not happy that we’ve been working to confront them at every turn to ensure the public isn’t duped by their distortions.

And we’ll continue to set the record straight to ensure the public has the facts.