HDPE, PVC Makers Trade Barbs

Irving, Texas and Poway, Calif. The Plastics Pipe Institute, Irving, Texas, issued a cautionary advisory in June regarding the integrity of fusible polyvinyl chloride pipe used for water service applications. Recent failures of new water lines using this novel fusible PVC material and its fusion method have exposed a critical problem to the industry, stated Tony Radoszewski, executive director of

Irving, Texas and Poway, Calif. — The Plastics Pipe Institute, Irving, Texas, issued a cautionary advisory in June regarding the integrity of fusible polyvinyl chloride pipe used for water service applications.

“Recent failures of new water lines using this novel fusible PVC material and its fusion method have exposed a critical problem to the industry,” stated Tony Radoszewski, executive director of PPI. “Because pipe made from high-density polyethylene (HDPE), however, has a high resistance to rapid crack propagation, RCP is not a significant issue for HDPE pipe installations.”

Almost immediately, Underground Solutions Inc., Poway, Calif., the principal manufacturer of fusible PVC pipe, fired back.

“PPI's assault on Fusible PVC pipe is labeled a ‘cautionary advisory,’ when in reality it is nothing more than a poorly disguised commercial attack,” Underground Solutions CEO Andy Seidel wrote on the firm's Website. “Not accustomed to head-to-head competition, PPI has resorted to scare tactics - using misrepresentations and misstatements - in an attempt to hold onto market share and profit margins for its members. We cannot leave misleading propaganda unchallenged…”

Seidel said that he believes PPI's problem is that fusible PVC is giving HDPE water pipe too much competition. He took exception to PPI claiming to be the voice of the plastic pipe industry, stating that his firm is represented by the Uni-Bell PVC Pipe Association.

PPI claimed that fusible PVC is susceptible to rapid crack propagation, which has led to a number of recent water pipeline failures. RCP can be caused by various reasons including defects in the pipe, damage incurred during production and shipping, in-service damage from third party impact, hot tapping or rock impingement, according to PPI. Other variables may include the base resin and thin wall of the fusible PVC pipe that is being promoted for trenchless applications. Once a crack forms in a fused PVC system it can continue unabated at up to 1,900 feet per second and can affect the entire length of the pipeline due to its monolithic structure. Traditionally, PVC pipe sections have been joined by using a bell and spigot.

PPI claimed that fusible PVC had experienced “a number of recent water pipeline failures“ as a result of rapid crack propagation, Radoszewski said.

“This is simply not true,” said Seidel. “Fusible PVC pipe has not experienced a single in-service failure due to RCP.”

PPI cites a pipeline failure in Naples, Fla., Seidel said, that actually involved joint failure, not rapid crack propagation. Underground Solutions sent CONTRACTOR a copy of a letter from the installer of the pipe in question, Steve Ackerman, president of Ackerman Construction Co. Inc., Naples, Fla., that said, “I can state unequivocally that the pipeline failure was not the result of RCP. Rather, the line failed due to a separated joint, which can occur with any pipe material.”

PI also maintained that makers of fusible PVC are claiming that the joining method is certified by the American Water Works Association.

“I'm concerned by reports indicating AWWA standards are appearing on the fusible PVC print string because the thermal joining or butt-fusing of PVC pipe is not covered by AWWA C900, C905 and C605,” said Radoszewski.

Seidel countered that no field joining methods are covered by the AWWA standards. He also noted that Underground Solutions requires all of its contractors to undergo its training program and to document every joint.

CONTRACTOR asked Radoszewski for a rebuttal of Seidel's remarks, but he did not respond by press time.