Log in

Learn more about member benefits
Log in


  • Wednesday, August 02, 2023 12:37 PM | Anonymous

    The Biden administration on Friday proposed tightening an efficiency standard for new residential water heaters — a move that it said would both save consumers money and combat climate change.

    The draft rule would require that, in order to become more efficient, most common-size electric water heaters use heat pump technology and gas-powered heaters use condensing technology.

    The proposal from the Energy Department would cut 501 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions over 30 years, the department said. That’s the equivalent of the emissions of 134 coal-fired power plants in one year.

    The department also said the standards would save consumers $198 billion over the 30-year period.

    “Today’s actions…improve outdated efficiency standards for common household appliances, which is essential to slashing utility bills for American families and cutting harmful carbon emissions,” Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said in a written statement.

    “This proposal reinforces the trajectory of consumer savings that forms the key pillar of Bidenomics and builds on the unprecedented actions already taken by this Administration to lower energy costs for working families across the nation,” she added.

    The department said in its proposed rule that it’s not clear whether the rule will ultimately cost or save money for manufacturers, saying its impacts could range between a loss of $207.3 million to a gain of $165.5 million through the year 2059.

    The department’s energy efficiency rules have become a controversial topic on Capitol Hill, particularly as they pertain to gas stoves.

    Biden administration proposes tighter efficiency rule for new home water heaters | The Hill

  • Tuesday, August 01, 2023 1:31 PM | Anonymous

    New laws could soon be in place in Miami-Dade County to protect outdoor workers from the extreme heat.

    On Tuesday, the Miami-Dade County Commission passed unanimously the first reading of an ordinance to create a heat standard for outdoor workers. It would require certain employers to have an approved mandatory heat exposure safety program, access to drinking water and shaded recovery periods.

    The county could also enforce penalties if employers violate the ordinance. County leaders are calling this an important and historic legislation.

    "One death in the hot sun is one too many,” Commissioner Kionne McGhee said. "It is too damn hot not to be able to have water, shade, rest and protection."

    "People are dying everywhere from the heat,” County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said.

    The legislation is also a huge win for local worker advocacy organizations in South Florida, who for the past two years have demanded a Miami-Dade heat standard to guarantee protections for outdoor workers.

    Michael White works for Whiting-Turner Construction. Right now, they're building a new cancer center on Northwest 14th Street and 10th Avenue.

    His day usually starts at 6:30 a.m. and he's not packing up until almost 12 hours later.

    "It's been a different type of heat because the humidity is very strong,” White said. "You have to get the job done but you have to pace yourself."

    White says light clothing, hydration and breaks are what gets him through the day, but he says this new ordinance is needed.

    "It is a serious situation and I appreciate the county is taking a look to try and implement some things that'll make it easier,” White said.

    The county commission passed unanimously on the first reading of the ordinance. Now it goes to a committee in September. If it passes as is, the mayor says it'll be the first such law in Florida and the U.S.

    Miami-Dade County moves forward with ordinance to protect outdoor workers from extreme heat – NBC 6 South Florida (

  • Wednesday, July 19, 2023 2:22 PM | Anonymous

    Breaking down the pros and cons and the best applications for both water jetters and cable drain cleaner

    Water Jetters vs. Cable Machines: What’s the Difference?

    Since the introduction of water jets more than 30 years ago, drain cleaning professionals have pondered this question: do high pressure water jets replace cable drain cleaners?

    The answer is yes and no. Traditional cable drain cleaners do a great job of cutting up tree roots and retrieving objects. But when it comes to grease clogs, cables have a difficult time.

    Water jetters, on the other hand, are ideal for clearing grease-choked lines, as well as flushing sand from bellied lines and melting ice clogs. Jets use a stream of high-pressure water that cuts the grease off the walls of the pipe and flushes it away. The thrust of the nozzle drives the hose down the line for wall-to-wall cleaning action.

    Electric jets typically offer a maximum of 1,500 psi at about 2 gpm. Trying to get more pressure from an electric motor runs the risk of pulling too many amps and popping breakers. Better to use a gas-powered jet. You get twice the pressure and flow rate than that of electric jets. It gives you the power to cut through tough stoppages and pull the hose down longer lines, and the flow to flush larger lines clean. Gas jets can also be used to clear indoor drainlines with a portable reel. It lets you use the power of gas jets in buildings and confined spaces where exhaust fumes could be hazardous, while the jets stay safely outside.

    Beware of trying to convert your pressure washer into a water jet. Jets use vibration to overcome the friction in the pipe and help the hose glide around bends and further down the line. If you don’t have pulse, the hose could get stuck in the pipe.

    Click here for full article from P & M Magazine

  • Wednesday, July 05, 2023 11:41 AM | Anonymous

    A proposed federal rule calls for forcing companies to disclose whether their products contain toxic "forever" chemicals, the government's first attempt at cataloging the pervasiveness of PFAS across the United States.

    The Environmental Protection Agency rule would require manufacturers to report many products that contain perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances. They're a family of chemicals that don't degrade in nature and have been linked to cancer, birth defects, and hormone irregularities.

    Companies would have to disclose any PFAS that have been manufactured or imported between 2011 and when the rule takes effect, with no exemptions for small businesses or for impurities or byproducts cross-contaminating goods with PFAS. Those disclosures would be available to the public, barring any trade secrets linked to the data. The EPA will finalize the rule in the coming months, agency spokesperson Catherine Milbourn said, then require companies to report back within 12 months.

    The effort excludes pesticides, foods and food additives, drugs, cosmetics, or medical devices regulated under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, Milbourn said. It also is essentially a one-time reporting and record-keeping requirement — and companies wouldn't need to provide updates.

    Still, the chemical and semiconductor industries are grumbling about what the EPA estimated is a potential $1 billion cost to comply with the rule. The U.S. chemical industry says it generates more than $500 billion annually.

    On the other side, environmental health activists say the data collection exercise would be flawed, as it accounts for only a tenth of the more than 12,000 PFAS chemicals, which are used in everything from nonstick cookware to kids' school uniforms. Moreover, they say, it wouldn't stop PFAS from making their way into the air, waste, or consumer products, nor would it clean up existing contamination.

    Congress gave the EPA the power to track PFAS chemicals in 2016, when it revised the Toxic Substances Control Act. Then a bipartisan effort in 2019, which Republican President Donald Trump signed into law, called for the EPA to inventory PFAS. However, health activists warn that unless Congress overhauls U.S. chemical laws to give the EPA and other agencies more power, PFAS will continue to threaten humans and the environment.

    These so-called forever chemicals went from marvel to bête noire in just 50 years. When PFAS debuted, they were revered for making Teflon pans nonstick and Gore-Tex jackets waterproof. They are effective at repelling water and oil yet so durable they don't break down in the natural environment. That strength has become their downfall, as the chemicals accumulate in landfills, soil, drinking water supplies, and, ultimately, human bodies. As scientists learn more about PFAS' toxic nature, governments around the world have set limits or imposed outright bans.


  • Wednesday, July 05, 2023 10:51 AM | Anonymous

    Determining Whether a Job Is a Simple Repair or Full Repipe - Consider these three questions when you’re deciding between repair and repipe options on a job

    The decision on whether to repair a failed section of pipe or recommend a full repipe isn’t always an easy one.

    Homeowners may balk at the expense of a repipe, but if problems are systemic, it could save them from additional failures and expensive damage down the line. On the other hand, there may not be a reason to repipe a home if the cause of the failure is isolated. The challenge for plumbers, then, is to accurately determine the cause of the failures and diagnose which are isolated and which are likely to lead to future problems.

    Here are three questions that can guide you through that process:

    Is the problem related to a localized external cause? 

    All plumbing materials can be weakened by exposure to certain chemicals, and different plumbing systems are incompatible with different chemicals. Plastic plumbing systems, for example, may be incompatible with some household chemicals commonly stored under sinks. In the case of failures in these locations, replacing the plastic stub-out with a copper one should resolve the issue. 

    CPVC can be softened by the plasticizers in some rubbers and flexible vinyl products. If you encounter CPVC that has softened and failed after contact with a rubber or flexible vinyl product, there’s a good chance you’ve found the cause of the failure. Use the FBC System Compatible Program to identify materials that are compatible and incompatible with FlowGuard Gold CPVC.

    PEX, another common plastic plumbing system, is known to have compatibility concerns with closed-cell spray foam insulation, organic chemicals, strong acids, strong bases, solvents, petroleum distillates and adhesive tapes. The plastic fittings used in PEX systems are particularly vulnerable to damage from exposure to PVC primers for solvent welding, which can cause the fittings to split or shatter under minimal stress. If you encounter isolated failures in a PEX system that has been exposed to external chemicals, try to identify the chemical exposure and verify its compatibility with the pipe manufacturer to determine if it could be a likely cause.

    These failures are likely to be isolated to the area of exposure and in most cases can be repaired by cutting out the affected section and replacing it, while simultaneously removing the external source of the failure. 

    Is the problem related to corrosion/degradation caused by chemicals in the water?

    Two of the most common plumbing systems, PEX and copper, are vulnerable to degradation or corrosion caused by water chemistry, including the chlorine-based disinfectants used to ensure the safety of drinking water. These failures are most common on the hot water side and are often characterized by discoloration and pin-hole leaks that are most severe in the areas of highest temperature and pressure — most typically close to the water heater or in a hot water recirculating line. 

    Plumbers may be reluctant to recommend a repipe if the system isn’t that old, but age shouldn’t be a determining factor. While these failures are typically most severe in localized areas, the damage to the system can occur throughout the piping. Homeowners who have initially replaced small sections of degraded pipe have gone on to experience multiple failures due to chlorine degradation in homes that are 10 years old or less

    To identify signs of degradation in PEX piping, look for cracking along the length of the pipe, permeation of the print line into the inner wall of the pipe and discoloration or “popcorning” of the exterior wall of a translucent pipe. In pipes that have been colored red, white or blue this effect may be harder to see but can still be identified by the presence of multiple short, thin splits in the pipe.

    Related: Give Customers a Healthy Home With the Right Piping Materials

    Is the problem related to the installation of the system?

    This is where things can get a little tricky as failures due to installation errors are usually isolated but could require a repipe if they were repeated across the system. Across all systems, including PEX, copper and CPVC, leaks or blow-outs at a fitting can be an indication of installer error where the fitting was improperly crimped, soldered or solvent cemented. These errors could be isolated or could be a sign of an inexperienced plumber who made the same mistake with every fitting.

    Improper handling of thermal expansion and contraction can also result in isolated or systemic failures. For example, in a CPVC system the force on a pipe from thermal expansion and contraction can exceed 1,200 psi under the right circumstances. With CPVC, expansion and contraction-related failures will only occur if expansion and contraction were not properly accounted for in the installation. These failures can be identified by looking for fittings, such as 90-degree elbows or tees, which have been distorted from their original 90-degree angle due to the force of expansion.

    With PEX common methods of accounting for expansion and contraction could actually increase the risk of chlorine-induced failures caused by flexing the pipe where it has been bent. These failures can be identified by circumferential cracking that is distinct from the cracking along the length of the pipe that is a sign of chlorine degradation. Circumferential cracking is often misdiagnosed as damage from nicking or scratching during installation, but actually results from the combination of stress and chlorine exposure.

    It is important to note that the presence of an expansion tank does nothing to protect against thermal expansion and contraction of the pipe. These tanks are designed to account for pressure spikes caused by thermal expansion of the water, not the effect of temperature changes on the pipe itself. 

    Choosing the right material for a repipe

    If a repipe is necessary, you have an opportunity to address the root cause of the problem and prevent future failures from the same cause. If the source of the failure(s) was that the plumbing system was incompatible with local water conditions, it only makes sense to choose a material that can handle those conditions. 

    Article courtesy of Plumbing & Mechanical, By Jonathan Simon
    June 29, 2023

  • Wednesday, July 05, 2023 10:36 AM | Anonymous

    Passive fire and smoke barriers in walls, ceilings, and floors are integral to building safety, slowing the spread of fire and smoke. Engineers and architects design mechanical systems using various piping materials for applications such as drain, waste, and vent; water distribution; fire-suppression sprinklers; and other applications. When pipes pass through walls, ceilings, and floors, it is essential to ensure the integrity of fire barriers by using appropriately rated firestop assemblies. If a pipe or other penetration fails due to excessive heat associated with fire and the associated firestop assembly does not remain secured, the resulting gap will compromise the barrier.

    “When a fire is actively burning, it’s going to create a lot of heat and pressure,” explains Bruce Johnson, a fire marshal who works with Underwriters Laboratories. “Even the smallest void that’s not protected with proper firestopping almost acts like a blowtorch. You’re going to have really hot flames, gas, and smoke going through that opening… so it rapidly spreads the fire and smoke.”

    Failures of firestops and fire barriers can cause devastating tragedies. A fire at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas killed 85 people and injured another 679 when a wall of flames “fed by wallpaper, PVC piping, glue, and plastic mirrors… blew out the main entrance,” according to accounts. “It took six minutes for the entire casino floor to be fully engulfed.

    Failures of firestops contributed to dozens of deaths in 1980

    ”To protect the lives of building occupants – and first responders – architects, engineers, and construction professionals must ensure these critical components meet the highest standards for safety. Failures in the event of a fire will trigger serious questions – and liability.  To that end, this report reviews issues related to firestopping assemblies for various plastic piping materials including polyvinyl chloride (PVC), chlorinated polyvinyl chloride (CPVC), polyethylene (PE), and crosslinked polyethylene (PEX) plastic, as well as non-combustible piping materials such as copper, iron, and steel.

    How Pipe Combustibility Affects Firestopping

    Codes require firestopping of penetrations in fire barriers, but the complexity of firestop assemblies is significantly different for copper and iron pipes than those required for PVC, CPVC, PEX, PE and other plastic pipe materials. That’s because during fires, the petroleum-based compounds in plastic pipes are combustible. They represent a fuel source for smoke and flames. According to Firefighter Insider, structural fires routinely reach 1,500 degrees Fahrenheit. Plastic pipes start to melt around 413 degrees and begin to combust at about 790 degrees. 

    By contrast, non-combustible copper and iron pipes will not burn; they begin to melt when they reach temperatures of around 2,000 degrees. (Note that steel used in structural beams may lose a significant portion of its strength when the metal reaches a temperature of about 1,100 degrees.) The chart above shows melting and combustion temperatures for commonly used plumbing materials.

    Why Firestopping Pipe Can Cause Issues

    Despite the combustibility of plastic, many building codes allow use of plastic in plumbing systems, even in buildings with firewalls. This use is permitted with one stipulation, however, and it’s one that turns out to be significant:

    Every firestop assembly in a building must meet all applicable regulations.

    Designing and installing firestop assemblies for piping penetrations requires a demanding process. Teams must understand which code requirements apply to their situation, select appropriate components, and install them correctly.

    Pipe penetrations through fire barrier. Photo by & copyright of Achim Hering, used under terms of Creative Commons & ShareAlike.

    There are hundreds of different firestop products on the market, and thousands of different firestop configurations, because what’s needed to ensure safety depends on many factors.

    Here are a few, but others may apply as well:

    • Type of wall, ceiling, or floor material,
    • Thickness of the wall/ceiling/floor,
    • Location and orientation in the building,
    • Pipe diameter, and
    • Type of piping material

    The consideration of material listed above is particularly important for all plastic pipes for two reasons.


    First, various types of plastic – including CPVC, PVC, PEX, PE, and others – are susceptible to chemical damage. According to the Plastic Pipe Institute’s firestopping guide, “firestop sealants may contain chemical additives that can cause damage to plastic pipe.” This means that if a material not compatible with the pipe is used, a chemical interaction could weaken the pipe or cause it to prematurely fail even during normal use.

    Second and equally important is the fact that firestop assemblies for plastic pipes are more complicated than firestops for non-combustible metal pipes. Because plastic pipes melt and burn, the assembly must not only account for space around the pipe, but for the space occupied by the pipe itself. A firestop assembly for copper and iron pipes may only require these two components:

    1. Fire-resistant material filling the annular space (typically mineral wool) and
    2. Firestopping caulk applied around the pipe.

    By contrast, assemblies for plastic pipes may feature all the following:

    1. Intumescent material in the annular space adequate to crush the pipe and fill the entire opening when heated,
    2. A collar or other device to secure the assembly to the wall, containing the intumescent material in the annular space,
    3. Fasteners appropriate for the wall type to ensure the collar remains fixed to the wall, and
    4. Caulk applied around the opening.

    As the number of components and combinations in a firestop assembly increases, so does the risk of error. And in practice, firestop experts see more problems in the field with complex assemblies. Firestopping consultant Sharron Halpert dedicates an entire section of her excellent website to identifying “classic mistakes” she’s found in the field, including one installation she says is “very rarely done correctly.”

    Five Common Errors to Avoid

    Eirene Knott, Director of Code Services for BRR Architecture, gave Building Safety Journal a good summary of the challenge: “The importance of firestopping in life safety has been well documented but, unfortunately, not well understood,” she wrote. “…Unless you install firestop systems exactly as their listing details, there can be no guarantee that they will perform as intended.” Knott finds that issues occur throughout the building process, a view shared by many other experts in the area. Sources across the industry – including many manufacturers’ websites – offer case studies and other examples.

    Here are several common issues related to pipe penetrations:

    1. Contractors who “roll their own” firestop assembly instead of using a listed system. Most codes require that a listed system be used.
    2. Contractors who install listed systems for firestop but modify the assemblies and/or fail to follow ALL installation requirements.
    3. Using firestop systems improperly sized for the annular space they need to protect. “If it’s too small you can’t get sealant placed properly, if it’s too big it can’t survive the hose stream test,” explains Halpert. “If you want to do ONE thing to improve firestop installations (ergo the level of life safety in a building)… it would be to coordinate annular spaces…especially in plastic pipe applications.”
    4. Mixing products from different manufacturers in the same opening
    5. Using firestop materials (e.g., caulk) that are not chemically compatible with a given pipe material. This is most common with pipe made of CPVC, HDPE, PEX, and PVC.
    6. Installing “expired” firestop materials that are beyond the limits of their shelf life. A related problem: installing firestop materials that have been stored or installed at a temperature or humidity that is outside the allowable range. Note that some manufacturers say expired materials are okay to use, so long as they can be troweled into place.

    “There is quite a lengthy list of items which can result in problems with the installation of firestopping materials…  any one of these items can contribute to a two-hour wall being reduced to a four-minute wall.”


    Here are several processes that design and building teams should incorporate into their projects to ensure successful completion of firestopping requirements for piping penetrations: 

    • Meet with a firestopping consultant at the specification and construction drawing stage to select products that meet all safety requirements. “Plan your firestop BEFORE you make holes,” says Halpert.
    • Have the team evaluate which combinations of pipe materials and firestop assemblies will perform best over the life of the building, considering issues such as
      • Chemical compatibility between pipe materials and firestopping materials,
      • Thermal expansion/contraction of long vertical and horizontal pipe runs, and
      • Ease of maintaining and repairing piping systems.
      • Consider retaining a single-source firestopping contractor who holds UL certification or has met the requirements for FM4991 – Standard for the Approval of Firestop Contractors accreditation program. “Single source fire stopping is so important because you have one source – meaning one contractor – who is trained and has the knowledge to apply the firestopping,” says fire service lieutenant Rick Conti.
    • Commission a special inspection of firestopping, in which the inspector will either witness installation of 10% of all firestop systems or perform destructive testing of 2% of systems. This is required by the International Building Code (IBC) for buildings 75 feet and above by ASTM E2174-14b – Standard Practice for On-Site Inspection of Installed Firestop Systems. If the inspector performs destructive testing, they will be looking to ensure that the installed system meets the requirements and parameters of the specific listed system used in that project.
    • Label each listed system used for firestop with the details of the listed system, including
      • Manufacturer and model
      • Installer name and company, and
      • Installation date.

    Failing to follow good practices, or installing firestop assemblies incorrectly will put occupants and first responders at risk if a fire occurs. Not to mention exposing architects, engineers, contractors, and owners to significant liability. In a follow-up to her first article, firestopping expert Knott said this about the challenges associated with doing firestopping well: “Clearly, there is quite a lengthy list of items which can result in problems with the installation of firestopping materials… [and] any one of these items can contribute to a two-hour wall being reduced to a four-minute wall.”

    To build resilient, safe buildings, design and construction professionals must work to reduce fire risks, and the KISS principle – keep it simple stupid – might be the best way to prioritize safety. 

    DOWNLOAD FULL Firestopping-Report.pdf

    -Article courtesy of:


  • Wednesday, July 05, 2023 9:53 AM | Anonymous

    One year ago, Brent McDiarmid of PHCC member company Glenn Mechanical Co. in El Dorado, Arkansas, was sitting on stage at the Parkers Chapel High School graduation ceremony to present a scholarship to the school’s Class of 2022 valedictorian.

    The scholarship provided Spencer Frisby – the young scholar who graduated with a 4.3 weighted GPA – with financial support to complete an online HVAC apprenticeship program and with an opportunity to work and earn money at Glenn Mechanical while he learned.

    One year later, Frisby (pictured at right with McDiarmid) is excited about his decision to go into the trades right out of high school and his promising future. He’s on an accelerated path with his apprenticeship (hoping to finish in the next year) and already is working as an HVAC tech at Glenn Mechanical.

    “A lot of people questioned my decision and wanted to know the pros and cons of going into the trades instead of college,” he says, “but I always came up with more pros than cons.” He adds that, had he gone to college, he believes he would have “wasted” four years of tuition, explaining that “with the high push for college these days,” the career opportunities in fields requiring that form of education aren’t as plentiful as they used to be. “Instead,” he says, “I realized I could spend four years making money while learning at the same time.”

    Frisby credits McDiarmid with attracting him to the trades. “He told me it’s always something new … that I’d get to work at different places and work with my hands.” And the student who excelled in math throughout high school is putting his strength in that area to good work at Glenn Mechanical, explaining how important math has been when taking measurements and making cuts for duct work, in particular.

    Excited about his professional future, Frisby says, “I hope to be at Glenn Mechanical for a long time … trying to move up the ladder. I’ve been involved in it all … commercial, residential, and industrial. I’ve been enjoying what I do.”

    Frisby’s personal path also looks promising … he’s set to marry McDiarmid’s daughter, Tori, next March in Arkansas!

    June 13, 2023 - By Staff Writer, PHCC-National Association

  • Wednesday, July 05, 2023 9:48 AM | Anonymous

    State Rep. Fiona McFarland's bill aimed at preventing fraud from occurring on a state database of Florida businesses has been signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis.

    The bill will provide the Department of State the authority to require passwords and verify the identification of people changing records on, the state's database for businesses. is managed by the Division of Corporations, which is under the Florida Department of State. The website currently acts in an administrative filing capacity for registering businesses and accepts any changes "at face value."

    While it is a third-degree felony to fraudulently change a record on, the current system does not check the identity of anyone applying for a change. This has allowed businesses to be defrauded in the past, according to a Herald-Tribune investigation last year.

    McFarland said when she filed her bill that she decided to do so after the newspaper detailed how a Parrish man allegedly hijacked control of a Sarasota real estate company and took out loans on the company's properties totaling more than $1 million.

    "I’m happy to announce that “The “Sunbiz bill” has been signed into law by the Governor!" McFarland tweeted on Monday. "Dept. of State can now create a password-protected program for registered" Florida businesses.

    McFarland thanked Rep. Chip LaMarca and state Sen. Erin Grall for getting the bill to the governor's desk. Grall sponsored a Senate version of the bill.

    "Let’s keep demanding safe and excellent" government services, McFarland concluded her tweet.

    It took the Sarasota Police Department more than four months to complete their investigation after the Herald-Tribune first wrote about the allegations. Robert E. Houston Jr. was arrested on numerous felony charges in January stemming from the Sarasota Police Department's investigation.

    According to the arrest report, the bank accounts that Houston is accused of using in the real estate scheme were nearly empty by the time police made the arrest.

    Houston remains in the Sarasota County jail, according to the jail log on Tuesday afternoon.

  • Wednesday, June 21, 2023 2:53 PM | Anonymous

    As a native Floridian, I am always eager to pass along good news about our state. That’s especially true these days when there’s so much of the other kind — soaring property insurance rates, no affordable housing, a governor who got outfoxed by a mouse, etc.

    That’s why I frequently point out that our beaches are ranked among the best in the country and our state parks have won four national awards. I also like to tell folks that we have some of the world’s most interesting wildlife. Alligators, for instance, which have been known to catch crooks and are likely to pop up out of a golf course water hazard and eat your ball.

    Get ready to cheer for a new recognition: Woo-hoo, Florida’s No. 1! … in lead pipes.

    Wait, that’s not so cool.

    A new survey by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency found that Florida has more lead pipes delivering water to its millions of households than any other state — even more than industrial ones, such as Ohio and Pennsylvania.

     Developers may be responsible for Florida’s high number of lead water feeds. Shown is Bonita Springs. Google Earth

    They based this finding on a statistical survey of 3,629 public water systems in all 50 states, Puerto Rico, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. territories. This is “the largest and broadest scope effort” since the agency began such surveys in 1995.

    “Some 9.2 million lead pipes carry water into homes across the U.S., with more in Florida than any other state,” PBS reported in a story on the survey. The EPA survey found that Florida had an estimated 1.16 million pipes made of lead, which is 12 percent of the nationwide total.

    The EPA is tracking lead pipes because lead is a toxic metal that can be harmful to human health, even at low exposure levels. Lead pipes can poison the water, leading (ba-dum-bum!) to such effects as higher blood pressure, decreased kidney function, and brain damage.

    All over the nation, people read this news item, slapped their foreheads, and said, “Brain damage?! THAT explains why Florida’s so dang weird.”

    Children are particularly at risk from lead contamination because it harms their healthy growth and development. You’d be better off feeding your kids a daily diet of Coca-Colas than giving them lead-tainted water.

    I asked an EPA spokesman how Florida wound up leading the lead list. The reply via email said, “In response to the survey, water systems in Florida reported a high number of lead service lines and a relatively low proportion of unknowns compared to the rest of the nation. “

    In other words, the people who deal with Florida’s water supply the most are the ones who identified this hidden peril. Have they also informed their customers? Not that I’ve heard.

    Still, it’s in keeping with the Florida water news I’m grown accustomed to reading recently.

    Florida’s rivers, lakes, springs, bays, and estuaries are a big attraction for our many visitors, but our careless handling of waste has put all of these waterways in peril.

    Pollution frequently closes our beaches to swimmers. Meanwhile, the pollution fuels toxic algae blooms that have killed thousands of acres of seagrass beds, which leads to the starving of our manatees.

    How bad is our pollution problem? A WalletHub survey this week found that Florida ranks 40th out of the 50 states for water quality and 35th for being friendly to the environment.

    We’re so desperate to get rid of this nasty stuff, we keep pumping unwanted liquids underground, based on the highly scientific principle of “out of sight, out of mind.” We do that despite the risk to the aquifer that supplies most of our water. Just last week, for instance, Manatee County started injecting treated waste underground from the old Piney Point phosphate plant.

    Now we learn that even the pipes carrying the drinking water to our homes are full of a deadly chemical. As our state gets warmer and warmer due to climate change, we need more water to drink, except now it turns out the water may be bad for us.

    This is not the kind of thirst trap we crave in Florida.

    Just writing this is making my throat dry. As the Queen of Funk, Chaka Khan, warned us: “You never miss the water till the well runs dry.”

    A lead pipe cinch

    Lead has a long association with plumbing. You could say they’re synonymous.

    The word “plumbing” comes from the Latin term for lead: “plumbum.” That’s because the Romans kicked off the whole lead pipe industry. They used lead to make not just pipes for drinking water but also plates, silverware, cooking utensils, and urns for wine.

    You can see why some scientists contend that the real cause for the collapse of the Roman Empire wasn’t moral turpitude or the barbarian hordes who invaded but the effects of having so much lead in their diet.

    “The first century A.D. was a time of unbridled gluttony and drunkenness among the ruling oligarchs of Rome,” a 1995 EPA Journal story reported. “The lead concealed in the food and wine they devoured undoubtedly had a great deal to do with the outbreak of unprecedented epidemics of saturnine gout and sterility among aristocratic males and the alarming rate of infertility and stillbirths among aristocratic women. Still more alarming was the conspicuous pattern of mental incompetence that came to be synonymous with the Roman elite.”

    Wait, does this mean all of Florida’s lead pipes are located in Tallahassee? That would explain the Legislature’s pursuit of silly stuff like protecting Confederate monuments and cracking down on drag shows when there are much more important issues that need attention.

    Anyway, despite the fall of Rome, the fledgling American empire embraced the use of lead as well — at first.

    “Lead pipes for carrying drinking water were well recognized as a cause of lead poisoning by the late 1800s in the United States,” one scientific study reported. “By the 1920s, many cities and towns were prohibiting or restricting their use. To combat this trend, the lead industry carried out a prolonged and effective campaign to promote the use of lead pipes.”

    To do this, the study noted, the industry recruited public officials to tout lead’s superiority, and “published numerous articles and books that extolled the advantages of lead over other materials.”

    Gee, sounds just like the modern oil and gas industry battling back against efforts to switch to alternative fuels like solar and wind. The industry dispatches its pet politicians — like House Speaker Paul Renner, R-Koch Industries — to parrot its talking points about how weaning ourselves off oil and gas is somehow un-American.

     Thomas Midgley Jr., who introduced leaded gasoline. Credit: Science History Institute

    Speaking of gas, the folks developing fuel for the fledgling auto industry in the 1920s added lead to gasoline so the engines would run more smoothly. It worked great. Too bad it poisoned everyone, including the General Motors engineer who came up with the idea, Thomas Midgley Jr. Employees at the first plant to manufacture leaded gasoline suffered insanity and hallucinations and several died from the effects, but the company repeatedly swore it was safe.

    The gasoline additive resulted in widespread human exposure to lead which, according to a Florida State study published last year, lowered the IQ of about half the population of the United States. Maybe this explains why so many people fell for Sen. Joe McCarthy’s outlandish lies, or found the comedy of Jerry Lewis absolutely hilarious.

    Lead was banned as a gasoline additive in 1996 — but only for cars and trucks. Leaded gasoline is still allowed for aircraft, race cars, farm equipment, and marine engines. Try not to inhale any exhaust fumes when you’re around those vehicles, OK? I’d tell you to wear a mask, but our Legislature probably won’t allow that.

    Our water supply got protection earlier, in 1986. That’s when Congress prohibited the use of lead pipes, solder, or flux in public water systems or plumbing in facilities providing water for human consumption.

    Even after lead pipes were banned, though, some shady folks still used them, figuring they wouldn’t get caught because the evidence was literally buried out of sight. Meanwhile, a lot of lead pipes were already in use all around the country.

    And it’s a lead pipe cinch that nobody was out digging them up so they could be replaced by something safer.

    Pipe down!

    What made all this a big deal is something that happened in a Michigan town named Flint in 2015. A switch to sucking water from a local river led (pun alert!) to residents reporting that they could see changes to their tap water’s color, smell, and taste.

    Turns out the Flint River water was working on the city’s old lead pipes and making them release high amounts of the deadly metal. Michigan officials, in tones similar to Kevin Bacon in “Animal House,” kept insisting the water was just fiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiine, all is well, remain calm!

    But experts from Virginia Tech reported finding such high levels of lead in the water they said the city should immediately stop drawing water from the river. Criminal charges and lawsuits galore followed.

     Marc Edwards. Credit: Virginia Tech

    One of the people I contacted about the EPA report on Florida pipes was the scientist from Virginia Tech who blew the whistle on the lead problem in Flint, Marc Edwards. When I told him why I was calling, he flat-out refused to believe me. Florida? No way.

    I sent him a link to one of the stories about it. He emailed me that he thought the EPA may have made an erroneous assumption that led to an overcount.

    But when I contacted an organization called Water Defense, which describes itself as “an information hub for businesses, consumers, and travelers to get information about water,” the response was, basically, “Well DUH.”

    “No, we’re not surprised about this,” spokesman Shawn Shafai said, explaining, “Florida has been identified in past reports and overall industry knowledge around the use of lead pipes.”

    I also contacted Alison Adams, who holds a Ph.D. in civil engineering and is the former chief technology officer of the regional utility known as Tampa Bay Water. She pointed out something that the EPA hadn’t mentioned.

     Alison Adams. Credit: Intera

    “Lead pipes were used in the building industry, not in public water supply,” she explained. “A utility’s responsibility ends at the meter to a home. Lead pipes were used between the meter and in homes or businesses, including schools, as a matter of construction.”

    In other words, when we look for who’s responsible for this, we should look to the builders and developers. But they’d probably order their flunkies in the Legislature to tell us all to pipe down.

    Department of Environmental Head-turning

    One organization that’s been banging on the pipes like Tony Orlando’s upstairs neighbor to get people to pay attention to this issue is an environmental group, the Natural Resources Defense Council.

    Two years ago, the NRDC issued a press release with the alarming headline, “Lead Pipes Are Widespread and Used in Every State.”

    “After conducting a survey of these lead pipes in the United States, NRDC estimates that there is a range of 9.7 million to 12.8 million pipes that are, or may be, lead, spread across all 50 states, including those that claim to have none,” the press release said.

    The scary part: Officials in 23 states “informed us that they do not track the number of lead pipes and could not provide us with those estimates.” The organization noted that this widespread ignorance was “concerning,” a bureaucratic euphemism meaning, “I’m totally freakin’ out here, man.”

    That means, the organization said, that it’s unlikely that these states have been able to adhere to the EPA’s anti-lead health standards. So far, they have suffered no penalty for that failure to protect the health of their citizens.

     Erik Olson. Credit: NRDC

    I talked to the NRDC water expert who surveyed the states, Erik Olson. He said when his organization contacted Florida’s Department of Environmental Head-turning, er, excuse me, Protection, the reaction he got was like an intelligence report from Sgt. Hans “I Know Nothing” Schulz on “Hogan’s Heroes.”

    “Florida’s drinking water program does not track lead service lines and we have not developed estimations,” the DEP’s response said.

    Lacking any DEP information, the NRDC, in its survey, made an estimate that Florida was nowhere near the top of the lead-pipe pack. That’s why Olson found the EPA survey surprising.

    “How this number went from ‘we don’t know’ to ‘we’re the No.1 in the country’ I don’t know,” he told me.

    I think the difference is the EPA asked Florida’s utilities, not the DEP, for information. I can see why.

    I tried contacting the DEP, but as is often the case these days, that taxpayer-funded state agency chose not to reply to an inquiry from this taxpayer. Maybe we should call it the DEA — “Don’t Expect Answers.”

    Bringing us billions

    Here’s one piece of good news about Florida’s exalted status as King of Contaminated Pipes: That EPA survey will be used to steer billions of dollars from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to finding and removing all those lead pipes.

    Previously, a state’s share of lead pipe replacement funds was based on its general infrastructure need and didn’t consider how many lead pipes the state had. This new law instead targets the states with the most lead pipes, meaning billions will be spent here to dig up and replace these sources of poison.

    Incidentally, Florida’s two senators, Rick Scott and Marco Rubio, both voted against the law, as did all 16 House members who are Republicans.

    You hear a lot of politicians these days talking about how much they care about our children. That’s why they’re so darn worried about the effects of drag shows and dirty books. But they don’t seem to care one whit about the danger facing our kids from toxic metals in our water pipes.

    Frankly, I find the hypocrisy kind of draining. I think I need to pour myself a cool drink — but not water. Maybe I’ll have a Coca-Cola instead. Might be healthier.

    CRAIG PITTMAN - Florida Phoenix, April 13

  • Wednesday, June 21, 2023 1:47 PM | Anonymous

    The last thing a plumber wants is to get stuck at a customer's home without the necessary tools and materials to handle the job

    Having spare flanges and wax gaskets readily available ensures that you can quickly replace a damaged flange and prevent any further damage.

    What do you take with you when responding to an emergency call? You never know where a call will lead you, and you might have to provide only a quick fix before getting a full set of tools from the local supply house to finish the job.

    Here’s a list of 10 key products to always keep on hand in your service vehicle for those emergency calls.

    1. Water solidifier

    A water solidifier like Liquilock is essential for plumbers when pulling toilets or urinals. It solidifies water and other liquids quickly, making it easier to remove a toilet without creating a mess. It can absorb up to 400 times its weight in water, turning it into a gel-like substance. It can even be used in a water heater tank to prevent damage to a customer's home from stained water leaking when removing a faulty tank.

    Liquilock is non-toxic and safe for the environment, making it an excellent alternative to traditional methods. By keeping Liquilock on hand, you can save time and avoid messy cleanups, allowing you to complete your jobs quickly and efficiently.

    2. Fast-Curing cement

    Having a can of fast-curing cement on hand is convenient for emergency repairs. Hot cement sets quickly, making it ideal for repairing leaks and cracks in pipes and fittings. Oatey Hot Medium Blue Lava PVC Cement can be set in as little as 10 to 15 minutes, which means that repairs can be made quickly, reducing the risk of further damage and getting plumbing systems back up and running in a timely manner.

    Related: Debunking 8 Misconceptions About Air Admittance Valves

    Oatey Hot cement is also resistant to high temperatures and pressure, making it suitable for use in high-pressure applications, such as steam lines and hot-water systems. If you can't fully stop the water, this type of cement will still stick and cure. And since its solvent levels are high, it typically doesn't require a primer (local code permitting).

    3. Epoxy putty

    Epoxy putty can provide a temporary fix when you have a late-night service call and need to repair leaks and cracks in pipes, fittings and other plumbing components quickly. Once cured, it can be sanded, drilled, and painted, making it a versatile repair solution until you are able to properly fix the issue with the right supplies. Additionally, it is resistant to chemicals, heat and pressure, making it suitable for a wide range of applications.

    Oatey's Fix-It Stick epoxy putty is a multi-purpose sealing, patching, and mending compound. It can be used to repair leaks, holes, or cracks in materials such as plastic, metal, fiberglass, concrete and ceramic. This powerful putty can be mixed in your hand and is easy to apply, making it perfect for fixing broken tile and molding.

    4. Professional drain cleaner

    When dealing with clogged drains, it can be helpful to have a professional drain cleaner on hand. Professional drain cleaners are more powerful than typical DIY remedies, such as Drano or baking soda mixtures. They contain chemical compounds that are specifically designed to dissolve and remove blockages such as hair, grease and food particles from drains and pipes. As a result, they are effective in quickly clearing clogged drains, preventing backups and overflows, and restoring proper drainage.

    For severe drain blockages, Oatey recommends using Hercules Clobber. This formula is designed to remove all organic matter. Additionally, Hercules Sizzle is a powerful scale remover that effectively eliminates scale, salts, mineral deposits, slime, and corrosion.

    Related: Five Plumbing Trends to Know in 2022

    However, before using these acidic drain cleaners on metallic drainlines, confirm that the integrity of the lines is in good condition. This precaution can help prevent any pipe or joint damage during the cleaning process.

    5. Extra toilet flanges and accessories

    It's always a good idea to have extra toilet flanges and wax gaskets. Toilet flanges are essential components that connect the toilet to the drainpipe and hold it securely in place. When a flange is damaged or broken, it can lead to leaks and other issues that can cause significant damage to the bathroom and surrounding areas. And when you replace a flange, you need to replace the wax gasket.

    Having spare flanges and wax gaskets readily available ensures that you can quickly replace a damaged flange and prevent any further damage. In cases where the flange is not severely damaged, the Oatey Fix-it Repair Ring is a great alternative to replacing the entire flange.

    This universal design securely repairs broken, cracked or worn-out toilet-mounting flanges and works with a variety of flooring types, including concrete. Installation is easy with four screws and silicone sealant, and no special tools or solvent cementing are required, making it an ideal solution for emergencies.

    By having these spare parts on hand, you can avoid wasting time running to the supply house to purchase replacements, allowing you to complete the repair quickly and efficiently.

    By Sean Comerford, P & M Magazine - June 19, 2023

PHONE / FAX: 941-977-5077

8283 Vico Court
Sarasota, Fl. 34240 

Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software