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Taxpayers & Underground Infrastructure: Round 2

Debate continues over the most cost-efficient way to fix water and sewer systems

Pete Sepp
March 30, 2010

Earlier this year NTU published an Issue Brief which explored taxpayer-friendly options for replacement of America’s water and sewer systems, and concluded that PVC pipe was a viable (and often preferable) material for the task. We had hoped that a lively discussion would ensue over a fiscal policy matter that often receives short shrift.

Our hopes have been answered, in the form of a reply to our original Issue Brief from the Ductile Iron Pipe Association (DIPRA) as well as a response to DIPRA’s reply!


Here’s a sample from the exchange of views:

  "If PVC pipe cannot compete with ductile iron pipe in the marketplace without legislative help, it is because ductile iron pipe is a better product. We want  our taxpayer funds to be spent wisely so that the most effective management of our  infrastructures is possible. This is done by taking the long view in the marketplace and allowing utilities to make the decisions they know are best for their customers.


We have already seen, every day, that legislation often costs taxpayers more than it saves. Invariably, central control of local issues means waste. ..."

 Gregg Horn, President of DIPRA


And the following:

"... 1) [W]e aren’t asking for more legislative overreach, only for more open competition; 2) [He] can’t deny that corrosion is a cancer eating away at U.S. underground infrastructure; 3) [N]or can he downplay PVC pipe’s durability, sustainability and cost efficiency. ...


Responsible management of public funds demands that PVC pipe be included in the bidding process in every U.S. municipality. Taxpayers deserve nothing less!"

 Bruce Hollands, Executive Director, Uni-Bell PVC Pipe Association


Which opinion should carry the day? We leave that up to you, dear readers, but we would all do well to remember that every time we turn a faucet handle or look down a manhole cover, serious money is at stake as well as clean water. 


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User Comments

Submitted by TG1 at: April 22, 2010
I agree with the open bidding but lets not limit our scope on just these two options. Polyethylene pipe can but fused together to produce a leak free system plus it is tough, corrosion resistant, has the same smooth ID that PVC does after years of service and has been used in Europe for over 50 years. Eliminating the leaks in our water systems means more billable water gets to its destination and could reduce our water bills.

Submitted by Walleye6fish at: April 5, 2010
As an avid outdoor enthusiast and tax payer, I agree with those advocating competition and open public bidding to get the most for our tax dollars. I replaced some iron pipe in a sanitary sewer application in my home in the mid 70s with PVC and it indeed looks the same today as it did 30 years ago.

Submitted by JP at: April 2, 2010
Well, I've read Mr. Horn's apology for protecting his industry's status quo monopoly and have to say I don't buy it. Sounds like he's afraid of the competition -- whose product doesn't corrode into a costly mess... Mr. Hollands is right in saying open and fair bidding must replace the nudge/wink good old boy's network that has been taxing the poor unsuspecting public by installing underground pipe infrastructure that starts to rot as soon as it's laid in the ground. I have seen with my own eyes the damage corrosion does to iron pipe. Not only does it pit and leak, but the rust build-up inside the pipe clogs up the system, allowing little water to flow, and requiring tremendous energy to pump. This crisis/scandal must be denounced in every quarter. Kudos to the NTU and Mr. Hollands for standing up for the environment, taxpayers and open competition. And what could be more American than an open and free marketplace where competition is the order of the day?

Submitted by SG at: April 1, 2010
We already know that ductile Iron pipe does not last. If it did we would not be having these conversations. Let the bidding be open

Submitted by Sylvia at: April 1, 2010
When looking at pipe that has been pulled from the ground, after 50 years PVC pipe is as smooth as the day it was put in. The wall thickness is the same. Looking at ductile iron, there is tremendous corrosion and build-up. Our city has ductile iron and my water is often yellow. It is clear before being transported.

Submitted by PipeLayer at: April 1, 2010
The market (municpalities) need to be open to all materials and have an open bid process. Closed bid processes or excluded materials will lead to higher costs for the taxpayers.

Submitted by slimerocket at: April 1, 2010
How much more do taxpayers pay for metal pipe when PVC is not allowed to bid? Answer: A bunch

Submitted by slimerocket at: April 1, 2010
How absurd. A big percentage of PVC pipe installations are to replace corroded, failing metal pipe of all types. You're not digging up PVC and replacing it with metal.

Submitted by Bowser at: March 31, 2010
Open competition is great for the taxpayer. Often decision by cities are made based on relationships and history rather than best practice and sound procurement policy. More product options are better. Let in PVC.