Legislature(1995 - 1996)
04/25/1995 09:10 AM STA
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HB 224 - STATE PLUMBING CODE REPRESENTATIVE VIC KOHRING, sponsor of HB 224, stated he and his aide had additional information addressing the safety issue of single wall versus double wall heat exchangers, which was a big part of the discussion when HB 224 was last heard in House State Affairs. He also had information to convey regarding costs. He added his position is in support of the original version of HB 224, the intent of which is to authorize the Department of Labor to implement the State Uniform Plumbing Code. Although the single wall versus double wall issue was not the intent of the bill, it did become an issue, and he stated his aide was prepared to answer any questions regarding that issue. Number 056 MIKE TIBBLES, Legislative Assistant to Representative Vic Kohring, said he had made a lot of phone calls around the state to gather information on heat exchangers. Anchorage Plumbing and Heating quoted $640 for their single wall unit and $626 for their double wall unit. CHAIR JAMES asked if those prices included installation. MR. TIBBLES replied they did not. He continued, R.S.A. Engineering quoted $734 for a 40-gallon single wall unit; the same unit with a double wall coil listed at $728. Regarding the safety issue, he mentioned the Yukon Kuskokwim Health Corporation, stating they have been working hard to get clean water in the bush and they feel the single wall units would jeopardize their water source and take them a step backwards. He also noted several instances of single wall units failing in bush communities, and one in which ethylene glycol got into the water supply and made some individuals ill. The evidence shows there was contamination from a faulty system. CHAIR JAMES asked if that had occurred in an area that had 2,500 population. MR. TIBBLES replied he did not know. CHAIR JAMES said she was familiar with the situation, and she believes it was not in an area with 2,500 population. She stated this bill exempts villages with less than 2,500 population, so this law would not have fixed the problem. MR. TIBBLES said that might be another issue which should be addressed, but it does show single wall systems can fail and have caused contamination. Number 154 MR. TIBBLES cited another example, in Anchorage, where a single wall system had left enough sediment in the system within two years to eat through copper pipes, prior to 1991 when the double wall requirement went into effect. He mentioned a school in Utah which was forced to close because of contaminated water and said he had 12 other examples. He felt there was enough evidence to warrant a safety concern. Number 167 CHAIR JAMES referred to a letter she had received from the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) which says of their 100 water heaters, many of which have reached the end of their useful life, 95 percent are single wall and are heated by the campus district steam heating system. They were asking for an exemption from the double wall heat exchanger requirement. She read some of their technical reasons: 1. At UAF, the domestic water has a high level of hardness. This results in a rapid scale build up in hot water heaters. We currently use a model of single wall heat exchanger that automatically de-scales heat exchanger tubes during normal operation. We have not located any replacement double wall heat exchanger with the same de-scaling capability. The frequent maintenance activities necessary to physically or chemically clean the scale from the double wall heat exchanger may result in a greater likelihood of potable water contamination with acid or bacteria. 2. The double wall heat exchanger has lower heat transfer efficiency. This will result in higher energy costs at UAF at a time when funding is declining and we are operating under a mandate to reduce energy and utility costs. 3. The steam in the district heating system at UAF is nontoxic. It consists of water and minute quantities of an anti-corrosion additive approved for food processing by FDA. It is distributed at 15 psi pressure and a temperature of 290 degrees F. Condensate returned to the steam plant is monitored 24 hours a day, 364 days a year. Any leak in a hot water heat exchanger would result in potable water leaking into the condensate return system - not into the potable water system - and being quickly detected at the steam plant. Even if steam did leak into the potable water system it would not result in a health hazard. Number 222 JOHN BUTLER, Owner of John's Heating Service in Kodiak, testified via teleconference in support of Representative James' proposed changes to HB 224 (Work Draft Z), adding the double wall units are no good. Number 234 PAT KNOWLES, Owner of Mountain Mechanical in Anchorage, testified via teleconference in opposition to the use of single wall heat exchangers, with a reminder "that's poison on the other side of those pipes, and any way you look at it, it's not something you want to drink." Number 245 CHAIR JAMES presented her solution, saying she had worked with Representatives Kohring and Rokeberg. She referred to two amendments which Representative Rokeberg had suggested (W.2 and W.3), pointing out they were intended to solve the problem for Kodiak, Fairbanks, and Valdez to allow them to use the single wall heat exchanger by inserting on page 3, following line 14 of CSHB 224(L&C), a new subsection to read: "(c) If a municipality does not have the power to grant a waiver under (b) of this section, the department may grant the waiver for the municipality." She said if these amendments were accepted, language would have to be added to make a single wall heat exchanger safe, and that language has been added on Work Draft Z: "Single wall heat exchangers may be used if the (1) heat transfer medium is water, propylene type glycol, or another essential nontoxic fluid having a toxicity rating or class of one, as listed in Clinical Toxicology of Commercial Products, Fifth Edition; (2) pressure of the heat transfer medium is limited to a maximum of 30 pounds per square inch by an approved safety relief valve; and (3) heat exchanger is prominently and permanently labeled with instructions concerning (1)-(2) of this subsection." She maintained that ethylene glycol is the problem, not single wall heat exchangers, and that this language takes care of the ethylene glycol problem. She added she would not put ethylene glycol in any water system. She called upon the Department of Labor to testify. Number 306 DWIGHT PERKINS, Special Assistant to the Commissioner of Labor, introduced himself. CHAIR JAMES asked him if the Department of Labor had any objections to the language in Work Draft Z. MR. PERKINS replied he had a problem with page 3, lines 2-3 of Work Draft Z because he was not familiar with the Clinical Toxicology of Commercial Products. He reiterated the department's position that they would like to see the plumbing code adopted by regulation rather than statute and then go out to public hearing in the process of making possible changes to the code. Number 375 CHAIR JAMES called the meeting back to order after a brief at ease and referred to simplifying Work Draft Z, page 3, line 1, by eliminating reference to the Clinical Toxicology of Commercial Products. MR. PERKINS said that would solve the confusion. Another solution would be to adopt the Department of Environmental Conversation's "A.W.W.A. Cross Control Manual." He said either solution would meet Chair James' needs. Number 405 CHAIR JAMES noted there were people to testify on teleconference, and asked them to wait. She reiterated HB 224 had been filed for the purpose of the Department of Labor putting the codes in. The city of Fairbanks has a problem with the issue. Anchorage has only 500 single wall heat exchangers, whereas Fairbanks has more. Anchorage has natural gas, and Fairbanks does not. She said she cannot argue against the fact that double wall heat exchangers have a lower risk factor, but she wondered what is the difference between that risk factor and the language which says a single wall heat exchanger is acceptable if the medium is water or propylene glycol, the pressure is limited to 30 pounds of pressure in the tank, with a relief valve, and that the heat exchanger is prominently and permanently labeled with instructions as in (1) and (2) of Draft Z. The problem that the double wall heat exchanger hopes to fix is the use of ethylene glycol in the system. Her language for a single wall heat exchanger excludes the use of ethylene glycol in the system, and that would help Fairbanks. In areas like Fairbanks where energy costs are extremely high, a small change can make a big difference in the heating bill. Design professionals and plumbing professionals and the Department of Labor have testified they do not have a problem with that language, so the committee should not either. Number 463 CHAIR JAMES continued she had not lobbied the committee at all on this issue, because she believes each issue should stand on its own merit, and she asked the committee what they want. She said there are three options. One option is to go back to the original bill and leave out the entire issue of single wall versus double wall heat exchangers. The second option is to take the language in the amendments submitted by Representative Rokeberg. The third option is to take her committee substitute, Draft Z, which solves the problem for Fairbanks, Kodiak, and Valdez. She expressed disappointment that the committee members kept leaving intermittently because she had really wanted the full committee to make a decision on the merits of each option. She observed several committee members had left again, and while awaiting their return she invited teleconference testimony. Number 486 STEVE SHUTTLEWORTH, Building Official for the City of Fairbanks, testified via teleconference, saying he had been there since 7:30 a.m. and would not now have time to say all he had wanted to say. He said he supported Representative James' Work Draft Z, and the city of Fairbanks would not support anything less than that. He said he had been asked to demonstrate safety; he did so and his testimony was discounted. He demonstrated cost and efficiency, and it was discounted. He said after this experience with the public input process, "you can imagine the feeling in this community." Without Representative James' amendments, HB 224 represents too much government, too much regulation, "and for whose benefit?" He hoped the city of Fairbanks' determination to get this matter resolved would not be underestimated. Number 504 EUGENE RUTLAND, Executive Director for the Mechanical Contractors of Fairbanks, testified via teleconference, in support of the single wall heat exchanger amendment in Work Draft Z. His association opposes the concept of HB 224 which allows the adoption of only the Uniform Plumbing Code by regulation. The Uniform Plumbing Code is being changed and no one knows exactly what it will be. Number 520 CHAIR JAMES noted the state of New York allows single wall heat exchangers with the same language; they have about 4 million of them. The state of New Jersey has assumed the National Building Code, and they allow single wall heat exchangers, with this language. This language is what makes single wall heat exchangers safe. In addition, double wall heat exchangers are less efficient. Number 540 REPRESENTATIVE KOHRING said he appreciated Chair James' amendments but noted it still relied upon people putting the right product in the tank. Number 550 MR. TIBBLES noted he had some information regarding efficiency and cost. He had called the distributor for Amtrol heat exchangers and had received a page from their catalog by FAX that morning. It states double wall heat exchangers do not affect recovery, on the new systems and new models. Number 570 CHAIR JAMES said that might be true, but the cities of Fairbanks, Kodiak and Valdez would incur tremendous expense if they had to buy double wall heat exchangers to replace all their single wall heat exchangers. This is a huge financial problem, and there have been no problems with the single wall exchangers. She repeated the three options for the committee. Number 580 REPRESENTATIVE CAREN ROBINSON asked which draft was the Department of Labor's draft. CHAIR JAMES replied Draft W was the Department of Labor's draft. She said her draft was Draft Z. REPRESENTATIVE ROBINSON asked to hear from the sponsor of the bill which direction he believed the committee should go. REPRESENTATIVE KOHRING recommended the Labor and Commerce Committee Substitute, Draft W, which contains additional language on page 3, Section 4, allowing municipalities to be granted a waiver to the plumbing code. It sets a higher standard by authorizing the Department of Labor to adopt the current plumbing code but it also allows flexibility for municipalities to be given a waiver to use the single wall heat exchangers. CHAIR JAMES asked Representative Kohring if he approved of the amendments provided by Representative Rokeberg and himself, amendments W.2 and W.3. MR. TIBBLES said those amendments had been submitted before he had done in-depth research the last two days on the safety issue. Going back to the Labor and Commerce version would give time for retrofits, so as not to punish the home owners, but would also set a higher standard for future installations. CHAIR JAMES asked if that meant they did not want those amendments they had brought to her. REPRESENTATIVE KOHRING said they did not, in light of the additional research accumulated in the last two days. CHAIR JAMES said that meant they were back to the Committee Substitute, Work Draft W. Number 629 REPRESENTATIVE ROBINSON asked if that meant they did not trust the Department of Labor to look at the issue fairly and possibly grant a waiver. CHAIR JAMES responded by pointing out how much trouble they are having in a legislative committee and saying an administrative committee would have even less control. She said she personally did not have that fear, after lengthy discussions with the Department of Labor. But the people in Fairbanks, Kodiak, and Valdez have had different experiences with the Administration than she has, and they do not trust the public comment process because they have participated in it and they have seen regulations come out with no regard to public input. She can understand their lack of trust. Number 650 REPRESENTATIVE ROBINSON said people in her community prefer sticking with the Labor and Commerce version of the bill, adding it offers the opportunity for discussion through the regulation process. She observed the bill will receive a lot more debate as it moves through the Senate, and she thought the basic goal of the bill is excellent and it was important just to get it out of this committee. Number 660 REPRESENTATIVE GREEN apologized for "bouncing back and forth across the hall" and reiterated that Chair James' version Z clearly stating what fluid should be used takes care of safety concerns. He added excluding villages of 2,500 people or less makes the safety solutions in the other versions questionable; if they are able to waive the demand for a double wall heat exchanger, then other municipalities should have that same right. If the code is adopted, this choice should be allowed. Otherwise the urban areas are protected and the rural areas are ignored, and this "smacks in the face of safety." It ought to be the other way around, if anything. He would prefer version W, with amendments. He noted he had to "run across the hall again." Number 682 REPRESENTATIVE SCOTT OGAN said "Madam Chair, we either need to fish or cut bait, because Joe and I are out of here in about 30 seconds." Number 685 REPRESENTATIVE KOHRING said he recommended accepting the original committee substitute. (Representatives Ogan and Green left the meeting.) CHAIR JAMES stated, "We can't have a committee meeting with people jumping up and down."