National Academies of Sciences Studies Possible Link Between Iron Pipe Corrosion and Legionella Growth

National Academies of Sciences Studies Possible Link Between Iron Pipe Corrosion and Legionella Growth


We’ve written before about the desperate need to improve our nation’s water infrastructure. In 2017, the American Society of Civil Engineers gave U.S. water infrastructure a “D.” Most of America’s water mains are made of legacy iron pipes, which are failing and causing more and more water main breaks. Now, a new report from the National Academies of Sciences raises questions about the connection between legacy iron pipe materials and Legionnaires’ disease, which directly affects more than 50,000 Americans each year.

The Problem with Metal Pipes

The report suggests that metal corrosion, especially iron, can promote colonization of Legionella, the bacteria responsible for Legionnaires’ disease. The authors of the study note that “[increased] bioavailability of various metal corrosion products, such as iron, may also upregulate virulence in legionellae, stimulate general biofilm growth, and contribute to Legionella growth in hot-water heaters.”

The link between iron corrosion and Legionella growth is especially concerning given the amount of water system components that are made from iron. Iron pipe, including both cast iron and ductile iron, is prone to corrosion over time when used in water infrastructure. And the report suggests that deteriorating iron water mains could pose a “habitat for bacterial proliferation”:

Much of U.S. water distribution systems consist of century-old unlined iron mains, which are beyond their designed lifespan and subject to substantial corrosion as well as intrusion during water main breaks. Corrosion of pipe surfaces provides not only a habitat for bacterial proliferation and protection from chlorine disinfectant residuals but also a source of nutrients.

Corrosion is a common problem that affects iron water mains as they age. So much so that the researchers conclude that “addressing the problem of legacy iron pipe is a critical engineering control to consider for Legionella.”

Some Good News: There are Other Options

Materials that have smooth surfaces and are resistant to corrosion have a substantially lower risk of harboring legionella. The researchers note that “stainless steel, PVC-C, and PVC-U [do] not enhance growth of L. pneumophila in these laboratory tests.”

It is estimated that between 52,000 and 70,000 cases of Legionnaires’ disease occur in the US every year. Controlling Legionella bacteria in our water systems is a vital public health priority, and the researchers noted that  “[most] public water supply distribution systems consist of hundreds of miles of cast-iron mains, which will never be replaced in a time frame that would allow for better Legionella control.” For this reason, and so many others, municipalities are wise to consider non-metallic materials when updating their water infrastructure.


Greater Good: Ten Questions to Ask about Scientific Studies

Greater Good: Ten Questions to Ask about Scientific Studies


“Never take a study at face value…”

A big part of what we do at Vinyl Verified is correct journalists and media outlets when they run stories based on flawed scientific studies. If they would do their homework and ask these ten questions outlined in this article from Berkley’s Greater Good Magazine to determine a study’s credibility, we wouldn’t have to do it nearly as often. 

“Summarizing scientific studies and applying them to people’s lives isn’t just difficult for the obvious reasons, like understanding and then explaining scientific jargon or methods to non-specialists. It’s also the case that context gets lost when we translate findings into stories, tips, and tools for a more meaningful life, especially when we push it all through the nuance-squashing machine of the Internet. Many people never read past the headlines, which intrinsically aim to overgeneralize and provoke interest. Because our articles can never be as comprehensive as the original studies, they almost always omit some crucial caveats, such as limitations acknowledged by the researchers. To get those, you need access to the studies themselves...” Continue Reading... 


Inside Sources: Forest Fires Produce the Benzene Contaminating Water

Inside Sources: Forest Fires Produce the Benzene Contaminating Water


By Domenic DeCaria, Technical Director at the Vinyl Institute

In the aftermath of the California wildfires, we are still learning about the tragedy’s widespread devastation and health effects, including water contamination. Confusion abounds as to the sources of that contamination and how best to abate it. One thing is for certain, however: The benzene found in California’s water isn’t from burned PVC pipes… Continue reading…


RealClear Energy: Water Infrastructure Investment Makes Dollars and Sense

RealClear Energy: Water Infrastructure Investment Makes Dollars and Sense


By Ned Monroe, President and CEO of the Vinyl Institute.

Our country is facing a drinking water crisis that poses a clear and present danger to public health and the environment. A recent report from the American Society of Civil Engineers gave American water infrastructure a barely-passing grade of “D+,” an embarrassing reality we see on display on a seemingly daily basis. There are now over 200,000 recorded water main breaks annually. And while the failure of the drinking water system in Flint, MI has rightly entered the public consciousness, it should not be viewed as an aberration, but a wakeup call to policymakers at all levels of government to make significant new investments… Continue Reading


Context Is Key (And Often Dismissed) in Today’s Chemical News Coverage

Context Is Key (And Often Dismissed) in Today’s Chemical News Coverage

Anyone familiar with our work here at Vinyl Verified knows that we regularly confront junk studies by agenda-driven parties that are carefully designed to incite public hysteria.  Too often, those studies are deceitfully presented to the public as sound science by members of the mainstream press. Examples of good journalism – where reporters actually spend time doing their homework to examine the integrity of the claims they cover – are few and far between.  That’s why we need more people like dietician Cara Rosenbloom, who recently exposed the Environmental Working Group’s scare tactics in the Washington Post, to give us important perspective on what we shouldn’t fear with regard to our everyday interaction with certain chemicals.

She writes:

Would you worry if you knew your food contained sucrose octanoate esters or tocopherols? They might sound frightening, but don’t fret. These substances in packaged foods are also known as sugar, fat and vitamin E.

But see what I did there? I used chemical names to evoke fear by telling you those items were in your food. For a moment, you were probably wary of ingesting tocopherols. Scare tactics like this are often used by marketers to make people buy one product over another[…]

The Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit organization that focuses on human health and environmentalism, contributes to this fear.

She also reminds us of this important point:

[EWG] lists chemicals in conventional food and their associated risks — cancer, hormonal problems, DNA damage — but fails to address one very important issue: The dose makes the poison.

That context is consistently missing in regional and national news coverage of chemical issues today.  

Why? Because context isn’t controversial. Context doesn’t boost article views.  Context doesn’t go viral. And context definitely doesn’t sell subscriptions…

All context does is give readers a complete view of the facts, so that they may evaluate for themselves whether a chemical safety claim is, or isn’t, worthy of their attention.    

Well done, Ms. Rosenbloom. Thank you for taking a stand for good science in the public discourse.

MORE: When chemicals are used to scare you about food Gets it Right on Vinyl Windows Gets it Right on Vinyl Windows

We created Vinyl Verified to ensure the public has the facts about vinyl. It’s why we often have to correct press reports and agenda-driven organizations that spread misinformation about vinyl products. But in the interest of fairness, when they get it right, it’s important we highlight those moments, too.

In searching the online universe for vinyl references, we were pleasantly surprised to see a story on noting the many benefits of vinyl windows. The author, Donna Boyle Schwartz, makes a clear and convincing case why vinyl windows are a more compelling option over competing materials.

Schwartz addresses the versatility of vinyl windows. They can come in a number of different styles, which make them an appealing option for homeowners. She elaborates:

[V]inyl window frames are typically thicker than aluminum frames and offer options of smooth, textured, or faux wood finishes. In fact, the wood-grain texture achievable with vinyl windows is a big plus for homeowners who like the look of wood but long for the durability of newer materials.

Schwartz correctly points out that vinyl windows are more durable than their aluminum competitors. Vinyl doesn’t dent, corrode, or fade like aluminum. As a result vinyl windows avoid the major headaches for homeowners caused by these forms of damage:

Vinyl windows, however, boast extra durability when it comes to dents and chips, too. In the rare circumstances that your frames were to be damaged, vinyl frames—which are constructed of the same material all the way through—would be less likely to show any chips or scratches than aluminum frames, where any damage to the finish will expose the raw metal underneath.

Schwartz also notes that vinyl windows require little, if any, maintenance --  unlike other products that demand regular upkeep to prevent rust and corrosion:

Vinyl is virtually maintenance-free...Aluminum windows aren’t too much more work to maintain, all things considered. Since they are prone to condensation—which can lead to rust or mold—aluminum should be cleaned with a special aluminum cleaner, rinsed, and dried semi-regularly.

She also highlights that vinyl never needs to be repainted:

Because vinyl is the same color throughout, there is seldom any need to repaint...Scratched or chipped aluminum can be repainted or re-coated with enamel paint, but it may be difficult to exactly match the original finish.

And when it comes to performance, she correctly notes that vinyl windows insulate better than their aluminum counterparts. Vinyl does not transmit heat, while aluminum does:

Vinyl windows excel when it comes to insulation and improving energy efficiency because the vinyl material minimizes heat transfer. Aluminum windows tend to conduct heat (and cold) and, therefore, are less energy efficient. You may look for more advanced aluminum options labeled “thermally improved,” or install special “thermal breaks”—insulation within the frame to prevent thermal energy loss—which just happen to be made of vinyl.

Vinyl windows have better aesthetics, improved durability, greater performance, and reduced maintenance.  With those attributes, one might assume they cost more than the competition. But as Schwartz points out, “...vinyl windows generally cost 30 percent less than comparable aluminum windows.”

Thanks, Donna, for making our job easier by delivering these important facts about vinyl.

How Open Competition can Improve Utility Sustainability and Public Safety

The following was originally published in the November 2018, U.S. Conference of Mayors Newsletter.

Cost-Effective Infrastructure Investments: How Open Competition Can Improve Utility Sustainability and Public Safety

By: Bruce Hollands, Executive Director of the Uni-Bell PVC Pipe Association

Waiting for Congress to act with the hope that grants will be available to renew the nation’s 54,000 regulated drinking water systems, and 16,000 regulated sewer systems is risky. While increased federal aid to cities is desirable, it is not necessary to begin to improve the financial sustainability of these public utilities. Currently, underground infrastructure consists of three million plus miles of water distribution and sewer collection pipes in America. A considerable portion of pipes are aging, at or beyond their design life, and are increasingly subject to performance impairment and/or failure. Repair and replacement along with new construction is a critical (growing and recurring) cost driver. Closed procurement practices stifle competition among pipe materials and rote reliance on preferential pipe materials has the effect of raising the price point at a time when scarce public resources are available. Competitive bidding among different pipe materials has been demonstrated to yield cost-savings and meet service and safety expectations.

Water and Sewer Infrastructure Investment Needs

Communities struggle to raise the funds needed to provide continuous, high-quality service to the public. Utility rates have increased 5.7 per cent annually over the past five years, outpacing average annual inflation of 1.9 per cent. Rates are expected to continue falling short of reinvestment needs. Federal construction grants reached a peak of $9 billion in 1976, when local government invested an additional $11 plus billion. Today Congress grants roughly $2 billion a year to State Revolving Loan Programs which is subsequently distributed to local government in the form of low interest loans, and this low level of support forces cities to turn to tax exempt bonds for construction. In 2015 local government invested $118 billion in water and sewer. Despite ever-increasing public spending on water and sewer infrastructure the list of public safety concerns continues to grow (e.g., climate change, algal blooms, storm water control). Cost-savings, therefore, are critical to achieve sustainable systems and services.

Efficiencies are Possible Now with Competitive Pipe Investment

There may never be enough money available to upgrade the entire water and sewer inventory, but local government continues to invest annually using rate revenues as well as long-term borrowing. Pipe investments represent 60 percent of the total investment needed to upgrade our underground infrastructure, it is here that open procurement practices can be focused to achieve cost-savings. Competition is a critical prerequisite to achieve improved cost structures and system performance. Piping materials which meet current standards and technical specifications should be included in water and sewer projects. Alternative pipe materials have been developed to improve performance and extend system design life. Savings accrue from less replacement and repair of more resilient pipe materials. The toll in pipe breakage related to iron pipes in corrosive soils (which affect 75 percent of utilities) is driving consideration of alternative pipe materials, but, as stated in a USCM 2013 report, “Closed procurement processes lead to unnecessary costs, and may diminish the public’s confidence in a local government’s ability to provide cost-effective services.”

Questioning Closed Procurement Policies

Outdated procurement specifications effectively exclude safer, more durable and more affordable materials like polyvinyl chloride (PVC) pipes from participating in municipal bids. A study by the Water Research Foundation quantified the life expectancy of PVC pipe at more than 110 years – making it ideal for long-term asset management. Utah State University’s Buried Structures Laboratory reports that PVC pipe has the lowest break rate of all pipe materials and a service life in excess of 100 years. In Europe, dig ups and testing after 70 years of use confirm that PVC pipe will last in excess of 170 years. In US Mayor former USCM Water Council Co-Chair, Pleasanton (CA) Mayor Jennifer Hosterman wrote that her community not only found PVC pipe more durable but also 70 percent less expensive than ductile iron pipe.

Livermore (CA) Mayor John Marchand, a former drinking water chemist, not only praises the performance benefits of PVC pipe, but also lauds its ability to better protect water quality compared to other materials. Dr. Lok Pokhrel, Toxicologist at Temple University in Philadelphia, PA says that the best way to avoid Legionella outbreaks is for utilities to switch to PVC pipes, which don’t release iron (which provides a food source for pathogens) when exposed to corrosive water. It makes little sense for cities to deny their residents the health benefits open bidding can deliver. And competition drives down costs. A recent report by Massachusetts-based BCC Research compared the cost of pipe replacement in cities with open bidding processes versus cities with closed competition. The study found that communities with open competition enjoyed lower pipe cost, on average, for water main installation or replacement projects, reaching average savings of 27% for 8-inch pipe and 34% for 12- inch pipe, or up to $114,000 per mile of pipe, compared with municipalities with closed competition. Significantly, the researchers found that competitive bidding lowers the cost for ductile iron pipe by up to 30 percent.

Sixty-six percent of water supply pipes in the U.S. are 8-inches or smaller. Nationally, using PVC instead of ductile iron pipe in this size range could save $21 billion in pumping costs over 100 years. If PVC were used instead of HDPE pipe, $37 billion could be saved.

Based on all the available evidence, PVC pipe provides affordability as well as environmental and public health benefits for use in a variety of underground infrastructure applications, including life cycle cost advantages and the opportunity to substantially reduce GHGs compared to other materials, enabling communities to more effectively meet their sustainable infrastructure goals.

More: U.S. Conference of Mayors Newsletter, November 2018

U.S. Conference of Mayors Releases New Report on How Competitive Bidding Can Help Nation’s Troubled Water Infrastructure

Washington, DC—As the nation’s aging infrastructure continues to threaten water systems as well as the country’s health and economic vitality, a new report released today by the U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM) shows how cities could potentially save billions of dollars over the next 10 years.  The report examines the daunting challenges cities face with replacing hundreds of thousands of miles of aging and failing pipes, which are the single costliest water and sewer capital investment.  By changing the competitive bidding process, the report shows that the country could save an estimated $20.5 billion for drinking water and $22.3 billion for storm water in pipe material costs alone.

Water Main Break Rates In the USA and Canada: A Comprehensive Study


"The economic prosperity of modern cities is based on a complex infrastructure network located both above and below ground. A critical component to public health and economic well-being is our drinking water which is brought to the tap through an elaborate network of underground pipe distribution systems. Since most of this infrastructure is underground, it is out of sight and often neglected. Empirical data on water main breaks helps utilities in their repair and replacement decision making processes in order to deliver clean drinking water to their customers at an affordable price. This report documents the survey results of water main breaks and operating characteristics at utilities located in the USA and Canada. A similar survey was conducted by Utah State University approximately six years ago and published in 2012 (Folkman, 2012). This 2018 report references this previous study to compare and examine changes over time and discuss the importance of water main break data in the context of water asset management planning."

Read the full study:

Dismantling Iron Pipe’s Monopoly Will Benefit Consumers

Source: AP

Source: AP

By Richard Doyle
November 17, 2017

As outside temperatures fall, we will soon see a predictable rise in the number of iron pipe water main breaks across our nation. The looming water infrastructure debate in Congress will be vital in addressing that problem, as Members will decide how to address our nation’s corroding iron pipe water system. Fortunately, when it comes to determining the best material to replace what’s now underground, lawmakers will base those decisions on the facts – not on the claims of iron pipe surrogates, posturing as independent thought leaders, advancing the industry’s monopolistic agenda.

Iron water pipes are failing our nation at an alarming rate. And that’s no surprise, because iron pipe – particularly today’s ductile iron pipe – simply isn’t built to last. According to the American Water Works Association (AWWA), ductile iron pipes with the thinnest walls (representing the majority of metallic pipes sold) in moderately corrosive soils have a life expectancy of only 11-14 years. That’s significant, since corrosive soils affect 75 percent of utilities in North America.

Read the full article here:

Rebuilding American Infrastructure: Utilizing Lifecycle Data To Evaluate The Environmental Impact Of Piping Systems

Corroded iron pipe samples from Flint, MI.

Corroded iron pipe samples from Flint, MI.

By Tad Radzinski

In 2017, America's aging piping infrastructure, corroded piping systems, and water quality concerns are at the forefront. Examples like Flint, MI, have engineers and policymakers working to design piping systems that excel in longevity, durability, and cost-effectiveness. The controversy and magnitude of this national problem has resulted in many false claims and complicated solutions from competing piping manufacturers, leaving engineers and municipalities unsure of what solution will work best for their infrastructure needs.

Throughout North America, many infrastructure standards and building codes are now integrating lifecycle thinking into guidelines and specifications, asking the question, what is the true impact of the products we use to build our nation? When analyzing water piping systems, we ask the same question: What are the environment and cost impacts over the entire lifecycle of the piping system? Lifecycle thinking is considering all stages of a product’s lifecycle — from raw materials to end-of-life disposal — in order to fully comprehend a product’s environmental impact. In our “take-make-waste” society, we do not often consider the impacts of the materials we use in day-to-day life, nor the costs associated with resource extraction, energy use over the life of the system, disposal, water pollution, or emissions. Understanding the lifecycle impacts of a product can help design teams to identify sustainability and cost goals; spot problems and solutions that may have gone unnoticed; and design the piping system that fits the specific needs of the community.

Read the full article here:

Anti-PVC comments distort the facts

PVC has grown to become one of the most popular materials on the market today. And for good reason: It's one of the safest, most durable, cost-effective and innovative materials ever created. From the credit cards we use, the cars we drive, the homes we occupy and the places we work; PVC has revolutionized the way consumer and building products are made in the modern era.

PVC has revolutionized the material marketplace for more than 60 years. And given its remarkable success, it's no surprise would-be PVC competitors would throw their hat in the ring, develop alternative materials and promote those products to see how the marketplace would respond.

And they have absolutely every right to do so. But they don't have the right to disparage PVC in the process and mislead the public with inaccurate and potentially libelous claims about PVC when hawking their own product lines.

Read the full article here:

Let’s fix our underground water infrastructure through open competition

Let’s fix our underground water infrastructure through open competition

By Ellen Troxclair,  June 16, 2017

Like so many other people across the nation, I was horrified by the water contamination crisis that struck Flint, Michigan. As an elected official who bears direct responsibility for maintaining the integrity of my city’s drinking water system, I ask myself: What can be done to keep this from happening in my community?

Flint has taught us that we cannot be complacent. Providing clean and affordable drinking water requires diligence that nips problems in the bud as soon as they are spotted, as well as the foresight to upgrade water systems before they deteriorate to the point that they threaten public health.

Underground pipes account for 60 percent of the cost of maintaining our water systems. It is here that we need to focus our attention and our resources, because we have thousands of miles of leaking, corroded, underground iron water pipes that if not replaced in a timely fashion will trigger the next Flint disaster in an unsuspecting community.

Read the full article here:

Congress: Save taxpayers money by protecting open competition

Congress: Save taxpayers money by protecting open competition


Infrastructure will soon take center stage on Capitol Hill. And lawmakers will begin to earmark funding for states to replace our nation’s aging and deteriorating iron pipe system, to ensure the delivery of safe drinking water for the next 100 years, or more.

Fortunately, advancements in water piping technology have occurred in recent decades – and only one replacement material, PVC pipe, has been reliably proven, after peer review, to last more than a century. But unless Congress takes action to enact a national bidding process, taxpayers all across the country will continue to subsidize the ductile iron pipe industry by allowing some states to block PVC pipe from consideration.

Why? Because the Ductile Iron Pipe Research Association (DIPRA) has been campaigning hard to pressure states to protect the current restriction on PVC pipe as a possible material choice, and close bidding to competing materials that could threaten the iron pipe industry’s monopoly. DIPRA has unleashed a multi-state lobbying effort in hopes of excluding PVC pipe, out of fear PVC pipe will continue to disrupt iron pipe’s monopoly over the marketplace.

Read full article here:

Study Examines Environmental Impacts, Safety and Costs of Nation’s Drinking Water Pipes

June 20, 2017
CONTACT: Justin Finnegan 646-756-3711 or

Study Examines Environmental Impacts, Safety and Costs of Nation’s Drinking Water Pipes

DALLAS — The Uni-Bell PVC Pipe Association (PVCPA), which represents U.S. and Canadian manufacturers of PVC pipe, announced the completion of the first comprehensive environmental and performance review of water and sewer pipes in North America. The study used life cycle assessment methodology to evaluate the cradle-to-grave sustainability of commonly used drinking water and sewer pipe materials, including polyvinylchloride (PVC), concrete, ductile iron, and high density polyethylene pipes over a 100-year service period.

Sustainable Solutions Corporation (SSC), a sustainability consulting firm, was hired by PVCPA to conduct the study. SSC's engineers used the ISO 14040 series life cycle assessment (LCA) standards from the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) to evaluate PVC pipe’s environmental footprint. The peer-reviewed report also examines other pipe products based on durability, performance and environmental data and statistics when available.

"The PVC pipe industry is the only pipe material that has transparently reported their sustainability and environmental impacts," said SSC President Tad Radzinski. "This is welcome information for both policy makers and utility professionals to make fully informed decisions in their efforts to improve underground infrastructure with sustainable products."

The report contains a robust set of data utility officials and engineers can use for their asset management plans and life cycle cost assessments for water and sewer piping. The 100-year LCA methodology also helps utilities assess and minimize water quality risks, as well as reduce operations, maintenance and repair costs. More than 200 sources and studies were examined to provide the most up-to-date and thorough industry review of the health, safety, performance characteristics, and sustainability attributes of the different pipe materials available.

“This study provides critical information for federal, state and local policy makers as they look to modern piping materials to help rebuild the nation’s crumbling underground infrastructure. Clean water was identified as a high priority by President Trump and this report confirms that safer, more cost-effective and more durable PVC pipe is key to upgrading America’s drinking water and wastewater systems,” said PVCPA Executive Director Bruce Hollands.

Some of the key findings from the study include:

  • When evaluating the sustainability of piping products for life cycle design, it is important to understand and review the life cycle impacts of all materials used in the piping system, including replacements, support materials, corrosion mitigation, maintenance efforts and water quality treatments required during the service life of pipes.
  • Based on more than 60 years of field experience, dig ups, laboratory testing, and given its immunity to corrosion and low break rate, a service life in excess of 100 years was confirmed for PVC pipe.
  • PVC does not serve as nutrient for bacterial growth and pathogens. 
  • Keeping pipes in use past their useful service lives results in higher operating and maintenance costs. Internal pipe wall degradation may begin almost immediately after ductile iron and concrete pipes are installed.
  • Traditional definitions of pipe service life should be re-evaluated. For much of the time that iron and concrete pipes are considered “in service,” they in fact are not, since they often do not perform as designed. For a good portion of the time they are in use, iron and concrete pipes are prone to breaks, water loss and water quality issues, as well as higher maintenance and operating costs due to corrosion, which significantly affects pumping efficiency.
  • PVC pipe is a low initial cost option and provides long-term savings because of its superior pumping efficiency, corrosion resistance and longevity.
  • Metallic and concrete pipes require chemical additives (phosphates) in the drinking water to help reduce pipe wall corrosion. Phosphates increase the chances of biogrowth (such as algae blooms) in drinking water sources, lakes and rivers.
  • Ductile iron pipe produces up to nine times more carbon emissions during raw materials processing, manufacturing, transportation and installation than equivalent PVC pipe.
  • 66% of water supply pipes in the U.S. are 8-inches or smaller. Nationally, using PVC instead of ductile iron pipe in this size range could save $21 billion in pumping costs over 100 years. If PVC were used instead of HDPE pipe, $37 billion could be saved.
  • Water and wastewater utilities often represent as much as 40% of a municipality’s total energy consumption. The energy required to pump water through a pressurized pipe system over the life of the pipe is a significant source of potential environmental impacts.
  • The energy required to pump water through PVC pipe over a 100-year design life remains constant because its smooth walls do not roughen over time. This generates overall life cycle cost savings compared to ductile iron and concrete pipes that require more pumping energy over time due to corrosion, leaks and internal degradation.
  • Corrosive soils affect 75% of water utilities. The durability and corrosion resistance of a pipe greatly affects life cycle impacts. Ductile iron pipe may last as little as 11-14 years in moderately corrosive soils, requiring numerous replacements over 100 years.
  • For equivalent 8-inch pipes, it takes up to 54% more energy to pump water through ductile iron (DI) pipes than through PVC pipes, and 100% more energy to pump water through polyethylene (HDPE) pipes than PVC pipes.
  • Of the competing pipe materials, including iron, concrete, and HDPE pipes, PVC pipe is the most favorable alternative when considering the products’ energy consumption and carbon footprint from cradle-to-grave in a public water system.
  • Recycled material is only a single attribute of a pipe’s life cycle environmental impacts. For example, more energy is required to process the recycled metals to manufacture ductile iron pipe than in PVC pipe production. As well, producing iron pipe with recycled scrap iron emits more toxins than pipe made from virgin iron ore.

To view the report, including the full set of key findings and its methodology, click here

“The federal government is committed to spending $1 trillion to upgrade the nation’s infrastructure, yet it’s estimated that $2 trillion is needed for new water and sewer pipes alone,” said Hollands. “Since PVC pipe can be up to 70 % less expensive than iron pipe, lasts longer with greater pumping efficiency, it’s the best choice to replace America’s drinking water systems.”

The Life Cycle Assessment of PVC Water and Sewer Pipe and Comparative Sustainability Analysis of Pipe Materials report also makes reference to the 2015 Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) for PVC Pipe, which complies with ISO 14025 standards and was independently certified by global health organization NSF International.

“This study shows that PVC pipe is the safest pipe material available. Water utilities aren’t sacrificing safety, longevity, or system performance when they choose PVC pipe—in fact, they are getting the biggest bang for their buck when they do,” said Hollands.

Based on the results of this study, PVC pipe provides a competitive environmental and economic advantage for its use in a variety of water and sewer infrastructure projects, including life cycle cost advantages and the opportunity to substantially reduce GHGs compared to other materials. PVC pipe addresses affordability concerns and enables communities to work towards meeting their sustainable infrastructure goals because of its durability, low break rate, corrosion resistance and long-lasting performance.

The Uni-Bell PVC Pipe Association ( is a non-profit organization that serves the engineering, regulatory, public health and standardization communities. The PVC pipe represented in the study is manufactured in the U.S. and Canada for drinking water, sanitary sewer, and storm sewer piping covering the 4” to 60” rigid PVC pipe market, uses a tin-based stabilizer, and does not contain phthalates, lead, or cadmium. PVC pipe producers contribute in excess of $14 billion to the U.S. economy and support over 25,000 jobs.

Download PDF

DIPRA Century Club Member Defects to PVC Pipe

The Ductile Iron Pipe Research Association (DIPRA) proudly promotes what it calls the “Century Club,” members of which are cities across America that have used iron pipe for more than 100 years.  

But we were curious what happens when Century Club cities determine, correctly, that PVC pipe is the better choice, both in terms of reliability and affordability. We couldn’t help but wonder – does DIPRA revoke their Club membership?

Nofolk, VA may soon know the answer.  A local news outlet recently reported that the city’s investment to replace its iron pipe with PVC pipe is “paying off,” exhibited by the remarkable drop in pipe failures that have occurred this year.  According to Harry Kenyon, Management Services Administrator with Norfolk’s Department of Utilities:

"Generally when you get really cold weather like this and then it warms up it makes our pipes contract and expand and often times we'll see main breaks, so this time around we only saw four which is very good."

Kenyon added that there are 900 miles of pipe running under city streets.

"We've been working on infrastructure replacement. Replacing old cast-iron pipes, with PVC plastic pipes. And I think those improvements we're seeing the results of that, so we're seeing fewer main breaks."

For once, we agree with DIPRA – Norfolk, VA is indeed a great example to follow when choosing the best materials available to support our nation’s water infrastructure. 

RealClearPolicy Op-Ed on PVC Pipe

Plastic Pipe Is Key to Water Infrastructure

By Richard Doyle
December 20, 2016

As our next administration and Congress grapple with the challenge of improving our nation’s deteriorating water infrastructure, they should keep one fact in mind. Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) pipe is the safest and most durable and affordable material available today to replace our aging underground systems and serve the interests of U.S. taxpayers.

PVC pipe costs less, and lasts longer, than iron pipe. The foremost experts on pipe durability have confirmed it. City officials in Pleasanton, California, have validated it, noting that ductile iron pipe is 70 percent more expensive than PVC pipe. PVC pipe failures are “extremely rare” — and Burton, Michigan, is saving over $2 million by replacing dilapidated iron pipe with efficient, high-performance PVC. It is lead-free and has been certified by the National Sanitation Foundation International for safe water delivery (the same standards the Environmental Protection Agency adopted for its own drinking water advisory programs back in 1990). 

Iron pipe, by contrast, is prone to corrosion, and the resulting bacteria buildup can affect the quality of drinking water. As iron pipe corrodes, its useful life is reduced and can lead to premature failures and costly leaks and repairs. The iron pipe industry now makes available ductile iron pipe, which corrodes even more quickly than traditional iron pipe, due to the material’s thinner walls, leading to increased breakage and loss of water. 

Read the full article > 

Washington Examiner Op-Ed on PVC Pipes

The slow, inevitable fall of iron pipe's monopoly

By RICHARD DOYLE • 11/2/16 12:01 AM

Iron water pipes were installed underground years ago because, at the time, it was one of the only materials that could do the job. But now these pipes are failing at an alarming rate, causing insufferable disruptions to our everyday lives.

Fortunately, innovative materials such as PVC pipe exist today that are more durable and affordable, and can bring our water infrastructure well into the 22nd Century. But in a desperate attempt to protect its monopoly, the iron pipe industry is engaging in a campaign of lies and distortions about our industry.

The fear of losing control over the market has become so real that the iron pipe lobby is now trying to ban PVC pipe from consideration in cities across America, a move that would restrict competition and severely impact taxpayers.

Read the Full Article >