Opinion

Disingenuous Study Leads To False Claims That Promote Plastic Pipes

(Toa55/Shutterstock)

Patrick Hogan President, Ductile Iron Pipe Research Association

As Congress looks for the best ways to invest in rehabilitating our nation’s infrastructure, it will be vitally important that the materials used to rebuild our roads, bridges and water pipes are built to last.

As such, the information provided by each industry involved in rebuilding should be based on sound data and research. After all, our decision-makers must be able to rely on complete and accurate information in order to make the right choices that have far-reaching impacts on our health and economic viability.

The manufacturers of plastic PVC pipes that are used in drinking and wastewater systems, though, are struggling with that. Consumers are demanding less plastic in their lives, and the dangerous chemicals that go into the production of PVC are being exposed for the health dangers they present.

That may explain why the industry has embarked on a misleading, scorched-earth campaign to denigrate leading materials, while using others to advocate on their behalf, including Bonner Cohen at the National Center for Public Policy.

Cohen’s recent article falls short on providing truthful information for the reader as he cites a disingenuous report from Steven Folkman at Utah State University to promote PVC pipes for our water systems. From the start, Cohen fails to even mention that the PVC pipe industry paid for Folkman’s report. That said, Folkman buried any mention of the financial support until page 45 of his 47-page report.

Additionally, Folkman’s report is also scientifically lacking. Of great concern is that he specifically asked respondents to not report PVC pipe failures that are due to construction damage and joint leakage.

In other words, Folkman directed respondents to avoid discussing real breaks in PVC pipes that require urgent and costly repairs that are problematic for communities when replacing their water pipes. In doing this, Folkman invalidates the integrity of the entire report by excluding data that could be harmful to the report sponsor’s pipe material.

There are a number of other flaws and omissions in Folkman’s report that are cited throughout Cohen’s op-ed, and one does not have to be a water industry professional to connect the dots as to why Folkman’s report found favor with PVC pipe.

This is not the first time that both Cohen and Folkman have reported in a blatantly biased manner in favor of PVC pipe, and we highly doubt it will be the last. Aside from Folkman’s constant sponsorship by the PVC pipe industry, it has become routine for Cohen to use half-truths and flawed data to promote the procurement of PVC pipe, while baselessly trying to tear down iron pipes.

If Cohen were actually serious about the health effects of the pipes used to deliver our drinking water, he would be asking questions about the chemicals that are used to make PVC pipe and the insufficient answers given by PVC manufacturers as to their safety.

He would be asking about the cancer-causing chemical Benzene that leached from PVC pipes into the water system in Santa Rosa, CA, last year as the heat from the wildfires melted PVC pipes. Or, maybe, he would be asking why retailers such as Apple and Walmart are taking PVC out of their products. Desperation is no excuse for disingenuous research and false claims.

The needs of the nation require trust in water professionals and in sound facts that support safe, long-lasting pipes for reliable water delivery.

At the Ductile Iron Pipe Research Association, our team of engineers looks forward to continuing our work with water professionals and local governments across the country in helping them rebuild our nation’s water infrastructure by using honest information from decades of research.

If individuals like Bonner Cohen and Steven Folkman also want to be serious about the future of our nation’s water infrastructure, it will be to the benefit of water consumers everywhere that these men begin to gravitate towards truth instead of the next financial grant from the PVC pipe industry.

Patrick J. Hogan is president of the Ductile Iron Pipe Research Association


The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.