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May 29, 2024

Naperville moves to “Copper Only” plumbing?

By John Kraft & Kirk Allen

On June 21, 2015

Naperville, IL. (ECWd) –

We noticed an unusual move by an Illinois municipality this year when Naperville pushed forward on its attempt at moving to “copper only” plumbing for new construction. I say attempt, because although Naperville appears to think they were successful, I do not believe that to be the case.

Taking advantage of a change in the Illinois Plumbers Licensing Code, several cities, Naperville included, have petitioned the Illinois Department of Public Health to amend the plumbing code on a case-by-case basis as provided for in the code.

To read my quick synopsis of the effect of Naperville’s approval letter, click here, otherwise continue reading for an in-depth analysis.

The Code allows for [Section 750.800(b)]:

(b) If a governmental unit adopts ordinances that are more stringent than the Illinois Plumbing Code, a copy of such ordinance or rule, including all amendments, shall be submitted to the Department for review. If such plan is approved by the Department, the ordinance shall prevail in lieu of the Illinois Plumbing Code.  The Department shall issue written approval.

IDPH’s responsibilities in this process are to 1) review the proposed ordinance, and, 2) review the applicable information, facts and circumstances “presented by the governmental unit” to support their proposed ordinance. Justin DeWitt has stated that the intent of IDPH is to only provide an exception for “well-justified reason”, and to further see the Illinois Plumbing Code uniformly enforced across the State, including the accepted list of material.

Supporting Documentary Evidence

First was a Wikipedia article on the antimicrobial properties of copper – and we know how Wikipedia is the go-to site for accurate information…just kidding…

Next was the submission of a non-scientific literature review completed in 2010. This review was completed by, thru EPP Rapid Research.

Finally, was the “scientific evidence supporting the requested deviation” from the State Plumbing Code. In an effort to produce such evidence, the City of Naperville submitted a Civil Engineering Master’s Thesis on copper plumbing, claiming it was the evidence justifying their requested change. However, as with any paper, you must look at any conflicts of interest with the writer, as well as the true intended purpose of the paper.

The Thesis author was upfront with an acknowledgement of “I would like to give special thanks to the Copper Development Association for their support of my degree.” So in my opinion, this scientific paper should never had been used as the sole source for scientific evidence supporting any deviation from the plumbing code – simply based on the facts that: 1) Naperville’s use of this paper was not its intended purpose, and, 2) a bias could have been injected into the study through the Copper Development Association’s support of the author’s degree.

The author of the thesis has also provided a statement that she “would not conclude from my research that CPVC piping systems are unsafe“, and then goes on to talk about the chapter this notion might have come out of. We are working diligently to obtain a more definitive statement from her at this time.

Naperville’s John Rutkowski stated in an email to IDPH that this research paper was “obviously the driving document to support our request for copper vs. plastic.”

The requested language for the Ordinance:


The requested language matches the approved language on the certificate.

One key note to make is the PURPOSE as stated on the application, “The effect of this language is to limit the material for water service and distribution to copper only.” That might have been the intent, but that is not in keeping with the actual language of the certificate of approval to deviate from state code.

The language in the Ordinance has banned the use of “PE”, “PVC”, and “PB” only. It did not ban the use of CPVC and PEX for water service and distribution. These are completely different products than what were actually forbidden by the Ordinance. If the city wanted to move to copper only, they should have presented that language to IDPH for their approval of an Ordinance more in keeping with their wishes.

The problem comes in when the city has already taken the stance that it has moved to “Copper Only” in all new construction, and that is wrong according to their own Ordinance and according to the approval Certificate from IDPH.

Adding more fuel to the fire is the Mayor of Orland Park in his letter recounting a conference call with IDPH. He sent this letter as a member of the Mayors Caucus Executive Board Chairman, telling everyone that IDPH would approve their wishes to go to copper only, as long as the appropriate back-up information was provided.

This flies in the face of established policy, but we will have to see how the process pans out. IDPH is still the approval authority for any deviations from state statute.

CPVC and PEX are proven materials and are currently approved for use state-wide. As we’ve said in other situations: “Follow the money”, and you will get to the real reason people are attempting to change this particular policy. We know it will drive up construction costs, and we know it will generate more labor costs, we just need to know which segment of the population will be reaping the benefits.





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  • Steve
    Posted at 05:02h, 22 June Reply

    It seems the officials are trying to reach. What’s driving this? The unions? Surely not the officials’ concern.

    I expect the state largely relied on science in creating the state code. (Yes, I have some faith.) For them to allow a municipality to waive that based on some junk science would be unseemly, in my view.

    • jmkraft
      Posted at 05:42h, 22 June Reply

      Like I said in my short synopsis, IDPH approved what was presented to them and the strict language. That language did not say “copper only” or ban CPVC and PEX. There is a reason for that, and I do not think IDPH would approve banning something that is widely accepted by the plumbing industry. Naperville’s only hope is to apply again with the correct language for what they want to do – and they do not want to do that.

  • sandy gray
    Posted at 08:51h, 22 June Reply

    Copper is expensive by itself, to install would increase building cost. Who has family or associates in the construction industry? Oh and theives love to steal copper from sites to sell for money for God only knows what. If this happens onsite who gets stuck paying for replacement, the builder or person having the building done. Sounds like a scam to me to help the construction companys in Naperville.

  • Dave
    Posted at 17:02h, 23 June Reply

    When properly installed, copper is, in my opinion, the best choice for water lines. Yes, it is more expensive, but it lasts for 50 years

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