Water-guzzling toilets are on the way back if a new bill introduced in the House is passed. The Plumbing Standards Improvement Act of 1999, HR 623, would eliminate the provisions installed by the 1992 Energy Policy Act (EPAct 1992). The 1992 law made 1.6 gallons per flush toilets and 2.5 gallons per minute showerheads the national standard.

A House subcommittee hearing in late July drew national attention to the bill. Members of the Plumbing-Heating-Cooling-Contractors—National Association and the Plumbing Manufacturers Institute testified at the meeting. In addition, the American Society of Plumbing Engineers filed a brief opposing HR 623.

“HR 623 has the potential to set the entire plumbing industry back at least a decade,” APSE noted in its brief. “There exists no researched evidence that indicates that passing HR 623 would accomplish any purpose…. To act on HR 623, and pass it out of committee, without any solid data, without any specific research, without any detailed information, and relying mostly on anecdotal tales and complaints, would be a travesty and disservice to not only the environment, but to the health, welfare and safety of the public. Legislation of this magnitude requires adequate and complete data, in-depth research and the testimony of experts, not politicians.

PHCC opposes the bill because it believes it is bad for the environment, business community and consumers.

“The continued use of low-consumption toilets is a wise and prudent move that will ensure future generations have access to clean, potable water,” said George Whalen, former president and executive director of the Plumbing Foundation of the city of New York. Representing the PHCC, Whalen said switching to water-efficient plumbing fixtures could save the average household as much as $50 to $100 a year on water and wastewater bills.

“The plumbing products provisions of EPAct 1992 have begun to realize their enormous potential to help the environment while costing taxpayers, our government and consumers virtually nothing,” said David Goike, of the Masco Corp. “Such a report card is rarely issued on government programs.”

The flushing of toilets accounts for almost 40 percent of all water consumed in the average house. Every day, more than 5 billion gallons of water is flushed down the drain, according to the PHCC-NA. Los Angeles saves more than 9 billion gallons of water every year and Americans save $11.3 million every day on their water bills because of low-flush toilets.

Rep. Joe Knollenberg (R-Mich.) reintroduced the bill after his original bill, HR 859, failed to reach a vote last year. HR 623 will stay in Congress until at least October 2000. Sources tell PME that the bill would never pass as a stand-alone bill, but instead would be attached to other moving legislation.

“My office has received thousands of phone calls, letters and e-mails from disgruntled consumers who are angry that their new toilets repeatedly clog, require multiple flushing and do not save water,” Knollenberg said.

The current law provides for fines as high as $2,500 for using illegal toilets, but black markets for them have developed across the country. Various news agencies have reported people even traveling into Canada to purchase 3.5 gpf toilets.

PMI is fighting the bill because the repeal could potentially create hundreds, if not thousands, of local regulations. More than 3,000 state and local communities nationwide would be able to determine flow rate requirements. A coalition of fixture manufacturers—including Kohler, Mansfield, Briggs, Gerber and American Standard—joined PMI to fight the bill.