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Polybutylene Pipe Replacement | PB Piping Problems, Howard County, MD
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What is Polybutylene?

Polybutylene is a type of plastic resin that was used extensively in the manufacture of potable water piping from 1978 until 1995. Shell and Dupont were two of the primary manufacturers of the Polybutylene (also known as PB) piping and fittings. Due to the low cost of the material and ease of installation, Polybutylene systems were viewed as “the pipe of the future” and were often used as a substitute for traditional copper piping. Polybutylene piping is typically gray, blue, or black in color. It was used as a underground water service pipeline running from the county controlled water valve (curb box close to street) to a home or business, and/or as the water distribution piping within the interior of a structure.

As early as the 1980's, leaking problems with the Polybutylene systems arose. While scientific evidence is scarce, it is believed that oxidants such as chlorine found in public water supplies react with the Polybutylene piping and its plastic/brass/copper connector fittings causing them to scale, flake and become brittle. Micro-fractures result, the basic structural integrity of the system is reduced, the system becomes weak and may fail without warning causing damage to the building structure and personal property. It is believed that other factors including improper installation may also contribute to the failure of Polybutylene systems, but it is virtually impossible to detect installation problems throughout an entire system.

Over the years numerous lawsuits have been filed against the PB piping manufacturers alleging that they were negligent and committed fraud in connection with the manufacture, promotion, and sale of Polybutylene plumbing systems. All manufacturers have denied any legal liability and wrongdoing related to PB piping, and blamed the bulk of leaks and ruptures on improper installation. However, after losing numerous lawsuits, manufacturers did agree to commit over a billion dollars to various class action settlement funds. The purpose of these funds were to pay for the replacement of failed PB systems as well as compensate PB system owners for any water-related property damages.

Note: The primary PB pipe settlement fund (Shell vs. Cox) closed to 'new claims' as of 5/1/2009. Refer to this website for additional information concerning this settlement fund.


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