In August, Underground Construction magazine and other industry publications received this brief editorial “bulletin”:
“The Plastics Pipe Institute retracts its news release dated June 11, 2008, and its contents therein.” There was no mention of what the June 11 press release was about or a summary of what it contained.
News release retractions occur from time to time and usually are sent immediately after distribution of a press release to correct or clarify information it contained. To retract a press release and all of the information in it is unusual, and to issue the retraction nearly two months after the initial release is very unusual.
Waiting so long to retract information provides the opportunity for publication, and the possibility that those who read information contained in the first release may not see the retraction. There’s also the chance some editors may not know what is being retracted.
The June 11 press release was labeled by PPI as a “cautionary advisory” regarding the integrity of fusible PVC pipe. Among other things, PPI alleged that fused PVC pipe is subject to rapid crack propagation (RCP), questions the integrity of joints of PVC pipe joined by fusion, and said the PVC pipe fused in the field does not comply with AWWA standards.
The release cited what PPI described as a “significant failure” of fused PVC pipe on a Naples, FL, project last May which, said PPI, demonstrates the “. . . costly results of ignoring the susceptibility of fusible PVC pipe to rapid crack propagation . . .” The release said that RCP has caused a number of recent water pipeline failures of PVC fused pipe.
The four page release contrasted such problems with the benefits of using HDPE pipe.
Underground Solutions Inc. (UGSI) which markets fusible PVC pipe and provided the pipe for the Florida project cited in the press release, described the release as a disinformation campaign by PPI that was “nothing more than a poorly disguised commercial attack.” In a letter to customers, UGSI rebutted what it termed “misleading” claims in the PPI press release about statements regarding fusible pipe joint integrity, RCP incidents and AWWA standards compliance. They charged that PPI misrepresented its role as an association that represents all segments of the plastic pipe industry when in fact PPI represents only the interests of the HDPE pipe industry. The UGSI letter said the PVC pipe industry is represented by the Uni Bell PVC Pipe Association and the Plastic Pipe and Fittings Association.
Following the press release retraction, UGSI issued another letter to customers that stated: “The retraction by PPI validates UGSI’s assertions that the information contained in the news release was false and misleading.”
Did Underground Solutions initiate or threaten legal action forcing the retraction?
“No,” said Andrew Seidel, UGSI chief executive officer and president. “There is a question about the quality of information in the press release, and the responsible thing to do was to retract claims made in the press release.
“In addition to the competitive issues, what concerns us is that such actions cause people to question the integrity of research and can slow the adoption of new technologies because owners and engineers won’t trust research.”
Bob Walker, P.E., Uni Bell executive director and Atlantic region engineer of the Uni Bell PVC Pipe Association, provided this statement:
“We were pleased that PPI retracted the contents of their news release regarding PVC pipe. PPI has done the right thing by retracting their earlier release. Our industry’s utility customers report fewer problems and improved performance with PVC pipes and this continues to generate growing demand for PVC pipes.”
Why the retraction?
PPI was asked to comment about why the press release was retracted, why several weeks elapsed before the retraction, who the original release was sent to and what publications printed information from it, and whether PPI represents all of the plastic pipe industry or only the HDPE segment.
Tony Radoszewski, PPI executive director, responded. Much of the information provided deals with the structure of PPI. Below are portions of Radoszewski’s written reply responding to the questions:
“In the June 11, 2008 News Release, the Plastics Pipe Institute (PPI) expressed concern regarding issues relating to a new method of joining polyvinyl chloride (PVC) pipe using heat fusion. This release was sent to various trade publications like Underground Construction magazine and distributed through various wire services.
“One manufacturer of fused PVC pipe, Underground Solutions Inc. (UGSI), has made several demands regarding the information included in the June 11th news release, and has requested that PPI retract it. We have repeatedly agreed to meet with UGSI representatives regarding its fusible PVC product. To this date, UGSI has not scheduled a meeting with PPI.
“We are also aware that Underground Solutions is involved in at least one lawsuit in California regarding statements made by other entities concerning its product. Rather than arguing with UGSI over each and every point in the news release, and to avoid any potential litigation which could detract PPI from its primary mission to support the plastic pipe industry, we decided to simply retract the entire June 11 news release.”
As to who PPI represents, Radoszewski cited PPI bylaws: “The mission of the Plastics Pipe Institute is to promote plastics as the material of choice for piping applications.”
He added: “The primary objective of PPI is to provide a forum for our member companies to work in a cooperative effort to broaden the market for plastic pipe and related products. Our members’ products serve virtually every underground utility and application where pipe is used.
“Let me emphasize again, wherever plastic pipe is used, our association and our members are actively involved. Now, while many of our member companies have high density polyethylene (HDPE) interests, our organization also includes a number of producers of other plastic materials and pipe including polyvinyl chloride (PVC), chlorinated polyvinyl chloride (CPVC), polyamide, polypropylene and cross linked polyethylene. In addition, a growing number of our members also have divisions that produce and/or distribute ductile iron, cast iron, steel, copper, clay, corrugated steel and concrete pipe.”
In conclusion, Radoszewski said: “I would like to emphasize we have never stated fused PVC pipe is an unacceptable product. I do want to underscore our position that the fusion of thermoplastic pipe is a critical process and that it demands an open and full analysis by those who design with it, install it and eventually use it so that they understand all the aspects of the pipe. For nearly five decades, our members have and continue to engage the standards community in creating open criteria and test methods that provide the specifier and end user with the most up to date technical information available.”