Future Washington State legislation targets HETs

BY CANDACE ROULO
Of CONTRACTOR's staff

OLYMPIA, WASH. — Legislation that was introduced by Senator Paull Shin in the Washington state Senate, Feb. 9, 2009, mandating that all toilets and urinals sold and installed in new residences in the state, except institutional and commercial toilets, toilets used by children in daycare facilities, and toilets used in bariatric applications and institutional urinals, be high efficiency by Jan. 1, 2014, died March, 12, 2009, the voting deadline for Senate bills.

According to Jim Freeburg, legislative aide to Senator Shin, the state of Washington is on a two year cycle, so they will reintroduce the bill in 2010.

When SB 5948 was introduced, it was comparable to the PMI-sponsored market transition plan that passed in California in 2007, requiring all new construction in California to use more high-efficiency toilets and urinals. High-efficiency toilets use 1.28-gpf or less while high efficiency urinals use ½-gpf or less.

The California bill was the first in the nation to require all new homes, schools, office buildings and other construction to utilize high-efficiency toilets. The California law requires 50% of all toilets sold in California to meet the new flush standards, starting in 2010. By 2014, 100% of all toilets sold in the state will need to be high efficiency. The state law also includes the installation of waterless urinals.

SB 5948 states that HETs would be defined as a dual flush toilet with a flush volume not exceeding 1.28-gal. … where effective flush volume is defined as the composite, average flush volume of two reduced flushes and one full flush, or a single flush toilet where the effective flush volume may not exceed 1.28-gal. High-efficiency urinals would be defined as a urinal that uses no more than 0.5-gpf.

Charlie Mitchel, owner of Mitchel Plumbing Co., Tacoma, Wash., treasurer of the Washington State Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors and co-chair of the association’s legislative committee, testified on behalf of the PHCC of Washington state during the public hearing Feb. 18, 2009, regarding the original bill. In the staff summary of public testimony it is noted that there is a problem requiring the use of high efficiency toilets when someone replaces an original toilet because it may not work with existing drain lines — there might not be enough water to carry the waste to the sewage treatment plant.

The original bill included a gradual increase of HETs and HEUs to be installed every year, requiring that all toilets and urinals sold and installed by Jan. 1, 2014, would need to be high efficiency.

There were significant modifications to the bill after it was introduced. The most recent version did not include a gradual increase of HETs. Specifics regarding the installation of the HETs and HEUs were also added to the bill, specifying — erroneously — that the installation of the toilets and urinals be constructed that the discharge slope of the drainpipe is at ¼-in. per 10-ft. slope between the appliance and the exit from the dwelling.

According to Freeburg, the mandate regarding the discharge slope was not in the original bill, was offered by a senator and would have been removed from the bill if continued in the Senate.

The Plumbing Manufacturers Institute supported the bill and planned to clarify that clogged sewers should not be a concern since requiring HETs in commercial applications was removed from the original bill. PMI also supplied information to back up the claim that the proper technology exists, so the use of HETs and HEUs should not be optional.

Mitchel is concerned about the future legislation because of houses that need more water to clear the line. “When we went to 1.6-gpf, we saw a lot of places where they didn’t work because drain line carry was not sufficient, and we modified a lot of installations to make it work,” said Mitchel. “We can’t have 1.28 across the board because we’re going to have problems with some of them.”