South Carolina’s legislature is currently debating a bill that would put serious limitations on how engineers, public utilities and other professionals design water, wastewater and storm water drainage projects.
Water infrastructure is critical to the health and safety of our communities. Water and wastewater systems, if not properly installed and maintained, can wreak havoc. Things can be much worse if improper materials are used to build them. If anyone has been led to believe that any material can do the job, then they have been perhaps influenced by special interests seeking market advantage. That is a shame. And a potential threat to public health and safety as well as the economic vitality of local communities who may have to replace weaker materials after only short term service.
The legislation that is pending is very concerning. South Carolina isn’t alone in traveling this path; similar bills have been introduced but rejected in states such as Arizona, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Virginia. In all, the legislation has been introduced in eleven states and none have accepted it. None.
The reasons against such legislation are plentiful, not the least of which is that it is a top-down, burdensome regulation that will make it more expensive and more difficult for communities to provide clean and safe water delivery from treatment plants to homes.
The fact is, all pipe materials aren’t the same, and the differences between them can be striking. Professional engineers and officials who run public utilities cannot be hamstrung when they’re selecting the materials that will run underneath streets and homes. Engineers and others who are involved in the day-to-day decisions surrounding buried infrastructure intimately know the factors and criteria necessary to select the proper pipe materials for their areas.
This is not the first time that South Carolina has considered going down this path. Hopefully, South Carolina will take the same approach as it and many other states have done in previous years: throw it out and make clear that special interests cannot force states into engineering decisions that could have costly consequences for its citizens.