More than 20 people representing 15 industry organizations attended the 2023 Plumbing Industry Leadership Coalition meeting at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) campus in Gaithersburg, Maryland in May.
PILC members were welcomed by Laurie Locascio, director of NIST, who expressed support for premise plumbing research prior to the meeting. Other NIST representatives included Natascha Milesi-Ferretti; Bill Healy, Ph.D.; Andrew Persily, Ph.D.; and David Yashar, Ph.D. The NIST representatives gave PILC attendees a tour of the institute’s premise plumbing research labs.
Attendees were able to see two areas of premise plumbing research NIST is currently studying — opportunistic premise plumbing pathogen occurrence in hot water systems and 21st Century plumbing: Characterizing pressure losses in pipe fittings.
In addition to the tour of NIST facilities, meeting attendees discussed workforce development, especially relating to younger generations; industry responses to COVID-19 and post-COVID realities, water and sanitation initiatives in disadvantaged communities, water treatment initiatives and much more.
Each of the organizations echoed the struggle of finding labor. ASPE Executive Director and CEO Billy Smith said during the meeting that "there is a tremendous need for skilled engineers in the plumbing profession."
Pete DeMarco, executive vice president of continuous improvement programs for the IAPMO Group, also expressed the need for participation at the codes and standards level. "We need participation at the standard development level — we’re seeing a decline. Someone is going to miss something. Spread the word and get folks to participate. It’s so important for all the work we do."
Government affairs representatives Chris Lindsay of IAPMO, Gabe Maser of International Code Council, Stephanie Salmon of PMI and Mark Valentini of PHCC updated participants about proposed legislation and regulations on the horizon that may impact the plumbing industry. One of the topics discussed was support from premise plumbing research.
"During our last meeting, we talked about our work collectively, as a number of us here in the room were support of the NIST Research Act," Salmon explains. "We were successful in getting that included as part of the reauthorization, thanks to Congress and a few others. So it was then put into the final CHIPS and Science Act, which is the semiconductor bill. It was to authorize research on premise plumbing — on some of the things that we go to see today. It was wonderful to have that opportunity, to come and see what they’re doing here. So many thanks to you for helping us get there.
"But, really, the next steps have to do with ensuring we can get more sufficient funding for NIST and for this program," she continues. "Again, I think it is incumbent on us to continue to work with members of Congress to have a better understanding of what's going on in plumbing systems. Because, you know, they think about the water shortage, but they don’t think about how systems work. It’s been a huge issue, trying to reeducate. We’ve had huge turnover in Congress — over 80 new members this cycle. There's a few members that have sort of latched on to water issues, but there's very limited knowledge. That's one of the things that we need to be doing better, I think, as a group, in terms of how we're communicating."
Following Salmon’s update, PILC members agreed to sign a joint letter to Congress and the Secretary of Commerce expressing support for NIST funding for further research into premise plumbing. NIST had originally identified 48 research topics within premise plumbing that needed to be investigated.
The next PILC meeting will be held jointly with the Emerging Water Technology Symposium, which will be held May 14-15, 2024, in Scottsdale, Arizona.