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PVC pipe advocates again seek to limit engineer's design options

For the second year in a row, advocates of the PVC pipe industry are asking the Ohio General Assembly to limit the professional engineer's ability to specify the most appropriate piping material for local government water and wastewater projects.

House Bill 214, introduced this week by Rep. Andy Thompson (R-Marietta), is a stripped-down version of legislation that ACEC Ohio and other groups succeeded in stopping last year.

This year's version mandates that public authorities "shall not prefer one type of suitable piping material over another" on such projects "unless sound engineering practices suggest that one type of suitable piping material is more appropriate for a particular project."  The bill does not specify who will determine what are "sound engineering practices," however. 

"Suitable piping material" is defined as that which "meets or exceeds the standards issued by the American Society for Testing and Materials or the American Water Works Association."

Similar legislation has been introduced in approximately a half-dozen state legislatures over the past few years and in every case they have been rejected.  But the PVC industry, under the guise that it is promoting "open competition" and with the formal endorsement of the right-wing American Legislative Exchange Council, makes clear it intends to keep on pushing the concept.

In an online article on ALEC's web site entitled, "Dubious Engineering Arguments," the author quotes a Virginia town councilman as saying that too often professional engineers are prejudiced against the use of PVC pipe.

"A lot of time the engineer is the problem.  Some of them want to stick with what they know and are reluctant to try anything new.  They are creatures of habit," he contends.

In reality, the problem is that the PVC pipe industry is clearly trying to use the legislative process to obtain a competitive advantage in the marketplace.

ACEC Ohio will continue to work to defeat this and any other legislation that attempts to restrict the ability of the professional engineer to specify construction materials that, in his or her professional judgment, are most appropriate for the project at hand.



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