Both sides in California's nearly 20-year chlorinated PVC pipe controversy are getting back into the ring to slug out another round.
The state Department of Housing and Community Development on Dec. 1 certified a long-awaited Environmental Impact Report, which concludes CPVC pipe has no impact on the environment.
The EIR and the department's proposed regulations for use of CPVC pipe has been forwarded to the state Buildings and Standards Commission for approval. Opponents have 30 days to challenge the EIR's findings before the commission can OK the material.
California is the only state that restricts the use of CPVC pipe. The material is authorized for use by the federal government in public projects in the state, such as sprinkler systems in multifamily housing and motels, and is used in water-distribution systems.
But the go-ahead for its use ends at a homeowner's front door.
The biggest hurdle to allowing CPVC pipe in commercial and residential construction has been the Environmental Impact Report, which had to be completed before the Buildings and Standards Committee could approve statewide use of CPVC pipe.
Earlier efforts by the state department to get the approval process under way have stalled or have been thwarted by opponents, primarily the California Pipe Trades Council.
So, it will come as no surprise to CPVC pipe proponents that the Pipe Trades Council plans to file an appeal against the EIR and its conclusions.
Dan Cardozo, a lawyer representing the Pipe Trades Council, confirmed in a telephone interview Dec. 8 that he is in the process of preparing the lawsuit. The council is joined by the Plumbers and Pipefitters Union and several state and national environmental groups, including Greenpeace and the Sierra Club. The environmental groups are represented by separate counsel.
Cardozo said the suit will argue that the state, so far, has not proven that CPVC pipe does not present health and environmental risks.
The state housing department and Gov. Pete Wilson support approval for CPVC, as do lobbyists for plastics industry giants who want to sell the product, the Plastic Pipe and Fitting Association and homeowners who have had trouble with copper pipes.
According to reports published in the Riverside, Calif., Press-Enterprise, corrosive acids in the water supply are forcing thousands of homeowners in San Bernardino County to replace failing copper-pipe plumbing systems at least once — and often several times — within a few years of construction.
Proponents of plastic pipe cite numerous studies that indicate CPVC poses no health hazard to workers and is not a threat to the environment.
Through its TempRight Division, Richfield, Ohio-based BFGoodrich Co. is a leading manufacturer of CPVC pipe resin. Debbie Neale, a Cleveland-area consultant for Goodrich who has been associated with the debate for many years, said labor groups oppose CPVC because it does not require skilled labor to install.
Still, Cardozo stands firm. ``It's important to look at the facts,'' he said. The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration ``says that chemical exposure standards are exceeded [by those working with CPVC pipe], and the department is not offering anything to address that problem. That is not very reassuring if you are a worker ingesting those chemicals.''