Homes in a development in New Mexico have to be retrofitted after primarily plastic piping systems failed in their plumbing application.
Builders used Kitec, an aluminum-coated cross-linked polyethylene product from Ipex Inc. of Toronto.
An Ipex official declined comment because the case is in litigation. The Kitec system, according to a class-action-settlement Web site, includes brass fittings. On that Web site, officials said a $90 million settlement has been reached with Ipex Inc. and Ipex USA LLC.
Consultant Peter Baston, who also lives in the housing development in Santa Fe, N.M., said the product failure is systemic and not to be blamed on one single material.
The failure was the result of a complex series of events.
First, the piping system corroded as the result of chemical reactions from the types of materials used in the entire system, which included non-plastic materials. Second, the type of water in that region contributed to the corrosion. Also, plumbers who installed the product were not properly educated on how to install the system, he said.
There are no shortcuts to doing it right. Ipex has gotten so scared of the litigious environment in the U.S. They should have said, 'This stuff was installed wrong,' said Baston, a quality-assurance and due-diligence consultant, in a March 8 telephone interview.
Any product you have in the world will not work if the people installing it are inexperienced, he said. If you're going to use plastic, make sure it's plastic from end to end, the whole system, from water heater to the other end of connection.
The Plastic Pipe Institute of Irving, Texas, said pipe failures occur with other materials, such as copper.
When a plastic pipe system fails, is it more prone to failure than a metal system? No, said Tony Radoszewski, PPI's executive director. He cited failures in the Washington area with copper systems.
At the end of the day, PEX continues to be a preferred material, he said.
Baston said proper education of manufacturers, contractors and builders is key.
Copyright 2010 Crain Communications Inc. All Rights Reserved.