Battle Over Fused PVC

By Jeff Griffin, Senior Editor | October 2008 Vol. 63 No. 10

In August, Underground Construction magazine and other industry publications received this brief editorial "bulletin":

"The Plastics Pipe Institute retracts its news release dated June 11, 2008, and its contents therein." There was no mention of what the June 11 press release was about or a summary of what it contained.

News release retractions occur from time to time and usually are sent immediately after distribution of a press release to correct or clarify information it contained. To retract a press release and all of the information in it is unusual, and to issue the retraction nearly two months after the initial release is very unusual.

Waiting so long to retract information provides the opportunity for publication, and the possibility that those who read information contained in the first release may not see the retraction. There's also the chance some editors may not know what is being retracted.

The June 11 press release was labeled by PPI as a "cautionary advisory" regarding the integrity of fusible PVC pipe. Among other things, PPI alleged that fused PVC pipe is subject to rapid crack propagation (RCP), questions the integrity of joints of PVC pipe joined by fusion, and said the PVC pipe fused in the field does not comply with AWWA standards.

The release cited what PPI described as a "significant failure" of fused PVC pipe on a Naples, FL, project last May which, said PPI, demonstrates the ". . . costly results of ignoring the susceptibility of fusible PVC pipe to rapid crack propagation . . ." The release said that RCP has caused a number of recent water pipeline failures of PVC fused pipe.

The four page release contrasted such problems with the benefits of using HDPE pipe.

Response

Underground Solutions Inc. (UGSI) which markets fusible PVC pipe and provided the pipe for the Florida project cited in the press release, described the release as a disinformation campaign by PPI that was "nothing more than a poorly disguised commercial attack." In a letter to customers, UGSI rebutted what it termed "misleading" claims in the PPI press release about statements regarding fusible pipe joint integrity, RCP incidents and AWWA standards compliance. They charged that PPI misrepresented its role as an association that represents all segments of the plastic pipe industry when in fact PPI represents only the interests of the HDPE pipe industry. The UGSI letter said the PVC pipe industry is represented by the Uni Bell PVC Pipe Association and the Plastic Pipe and Fittings Association.