Growing pains at ICC and the EPA
It took a while, but ICC finally announced vote totals for the last code-change cycle.
The staff of ICC considered this last cycle a booming success with online voting. A total of 1,247 voting members participated in the online voting process. That is almost a 300% increase in participation over the previous cycle for the Group A code changes.
Based on all the code changes available for online voting, 162,035 votes were cast. That vote total was distributed on more than 577 code changes.
Not surprisingly, the code change on residential sprinklers for one- and two-family dwellings in the International Residential Code received the most votes. There were 780 votes cast on that code change alone. The original code change proposed to remove the requirement for protecting every dwelling unit with a residential sprinkler system. There were 588 votes, or 75% of voters, opposed to the code change. As previously reported, residential sprinkler systems will remain a requirement in the 2018 IRC.
There still are growing pains concerning the ICC code-change processes. The organization has been accepting comments on its process. The first set of comments was posted on the ICC website. There are 26 pages of comments on the process.
It will be interesting to see what direction ICC takes based on the comments. The final decision on any modifications to the code-change process rests with the ICC Board of Directors.
While the 2018 ICC codes are not yet published, the deadline for submitting code changes to the 2021 edition of the Plumbing, Mechanical or Fuel Gas Code is Jan. 8, 2018. Only a half-year is left to develop any code changes you may want considered.
Possible changes at EPA
With a new administration, everyone knew there was bound to be changes at the Environmental Protection Agency. President Donald Trump let his disdain for the EPA be known during his campaign. Newly appointed EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has reversed positions that have been taken by the EPA during previous administrations.
The potential loss of WaterSense is such a new possibility, pme Editor John McNally also shared his thoughts in this edition’s Editor’s Note on page 4.
One EPA colleague I have dealt with for many years chose to retire rather than continue working under the new administration. Other colleagues have indicated a change in mindset at EPA headquarters.
Currently slated for a possible cut is the EPA WaterSense program, which recently celebrated its 10th anniversary of regulating water-conserving fixtures. It is a program that has actually worked well as a private/public partnership.
WaterSense had a rocky start. Then EPA extended a hand to the plumbing-fixture manufacturers to work with them in developing requirements and the EPA has been very receptive. Many of the comments and suggestions from the plumbing industry have been accepted by WaterSense, resulting in a well-run program that has been identified as saving millions, if not billions, of gallons of water through the use of water-conserving fixtures.
At the current time, WaterSense has requirements for water closets (both residential and commercial), showerheads, bathroom faucets, urinals, pre-rinse spray valves and irrigation controllers. Other plumbing products that currently have requirements being developed include tub/shower diverters and water softeners.
WaterSense has received widespread acceptance by the plumbing industry. Plumbing Manufacturers International has been a major supporter of the WaterSense programs and the group represents all the major plumbing-fixture manufacturers in the country.
WaterSense has really grown on me in the last 11 years. When it was first proposed, I asked, “Why is the government getting involved in plumbing product evaluation?” However, seeing how well the program has turned out and how well it is run, I have become a big supporter.
Russ Chaney, executive director and CEO of IAPMO, is leading the plumbing industry coalition opposed to cutting or eliminating the WaterSense program. The coalition sent a letter to Pruitt expressing its support of the program.
One of the statements in the April 24 letter is: “The WaterSense program is a voluntary program, not a regulatory one, that costs EPA approximately $3 million a year to administer, but has one of the best paybacks of any federal program.”
In addressing the payback, the letter further states: “Utilizing WaterSense‑labeled products, consumers have saved more than $33 billion in water and energy bills since the inception of the program. WaterSense has proven to be an effective tool for local communities and water providers to use in reducing the demand for limited water resources in their communities, saving an estimated 1.5 trillion gallons of water.”
The letter goes on to explain that the $3 million federal budget pricetag is well worth the investment and the program should continue. While we many times see a given industry supporting the repeal of an EPA program or requirements, it’s the opposite for WaterSense. The industry is saying to keep it in place.
If you would like to read the letter and the list of supporting organizations, it can be found at: http://tinyurl.com/n7owqfw.
It must be realized that the Trump administration is still in its early days of running the country. While WaterSense is proposed for a budget cut, or complete elimination, Congress must still act. The support for WaterSense may help to continue funding of the program.
Election campaigns often revolve around what the government can provide its citizens. WaterSense has been a unique program that has helped citizens, local and state governments and the plumbing industry. The promotion of water conservation alone is a very good reason for keeping WaterSense.