WASHINGTON — Responding to a push from plumbers, Arizona legislators have adopted a plumbing code that plastics lobbyists say bans ABS and PVC pipe from buildings over three stories tall and cross-linked polyethylene pipe from some uses in all new construction.
But lobbyists for plumbers said the law will not hurt the plastic pipe industry because fire code restrictions currently limit the use of plastic in taller buildings. State officials also are likely to allow PE pipe, plumbing officials said.
Plastics industry officials hope to convince a new statewide plumbing commission to allow plastic pipes when it begins to implement the law, which requires that municipalities adopt the Uniform Plumbing Code by August 1, 1998.
The Arizona House voted 42-17 April 10 to adopt the UPC and establish the Arizona Uniform Plumbing Commission to implement the law. The vote comes a month after the state Senate passed the measure.
Although the plumbers associations that pushed the bill say they do not object to plastic pipes, they rejected industry attempts to modify the bill to allow them, according to Lori Hansen, director of government affairs for the Western region for the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc. and the American Plastics Council.
Plumbers association lobbyists told the trade groups that amending the bill in the House would have reopened it in the Senate, where it could have been tangled up by cities and towns opposed to the statewide code, she said. Previously, those local governments chose which codes to use, but plumbers favor a statewide code.
Mike Williams, a lobbyist for the Plumbing, Heating and Air Conditioning Council of Arizona and two other plumbing groups, said plumbers will support the state commission allowing plastic pipe, unless there are other building or fire code restrictions: ``We don't want to restrict the use of plastic,'' he said.
Fire and building codes sometimes limit plastic in buildings over three stories because it is flammable, said Carl Triphahn, executive director of the Piping Industry Progress Education Fund in Tempe.
Arizona does not have any buildings above three stories with plastic pipe because building codes also require that plumbing must be able to expand with temperature changes, something metal is better suited for, he said. The UPC does not prohibit pipes in taller buildings but requires they be able to handle expansion, Triphahn said.
``What is most frustrating is that most everything used in the plumbing industry is plastics,'' he said. ``To have the plastics industry people come in and say the plumbing industry is banning plastic is very puzzling.''
Roger Bernstein, vice president of state government affairs for SPI and APC, said the plumbers have a lot of support in the state Legislature.
``These issues are not decided on a technical basis. The legislators don't have time to study the issues,'' he said.
Amending the UPC at the state commission could be an ``uphill battle'' because it will not have a representative of the plastic piping industry, said Jeff Risely, acting managing director of the Plastic Pipe and Fitting Association.
The PPFA does not track how much plastic pipe is used in Arizona, but he said a ban would be a ``significant'' setback in the construction industry. Specifically, the law adopts UPC bans on ABS and PVC pipes for drain, waste and venting in buildings with more than three stories and does not allow the cross-linked polyethylene, or PEX, for any water supply and distribution, he said.
The state commission is likely to support allowing PEX, and the UPC is likely to include PEX in its next version, Triphahn said.
Risely said there is no technical reason to limit ABS, PVC and PEX pipes, and he said most other codes do not place restrictions on their use. The UPC restriction is a ``political issue'' favored by makers of copper pipes and other materials, he said.