Certain brands of drain piping, manufactured between 1984-1990, have a history of failure. The type of drain piping is a black plastic material known as ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene). While ABS is still a common material used for drain piping, a few manufacturers in the mid-to-late 1980s had what amounted to a few years of “bad batches” that were prone to failure.

As part of the installation process, ABS piping is glued together with cement. Due to the type of plastic resin used in the bad batches, the cement could cause circumferential cracking at the joints, and lead to drain (aka sewer) leaks. The leaks are not caused by poor installation, but by the faulty plastic resin used to manufacture the piping.

Circumferential cracking

The Brands
In the mid-1990s, a class action lawsuit was filed against five ABS manufacturers that made faulty piping between 1984-1990: Polaris Pipe Co., Gable Plastics, Inc., Centaur Mfg., Inc., Phoenix Extrusion Co., and Apache Plastics, Inc. On May 14, 1998, a Contra Costa County California Superior Court judge issued a $70 million settlement; however, the settlement is now closed. In addition to the brands named in the class action lawsuit, home inspectors in the San Fransisco Bay Area have found numerous failures in Spartan brand ABS piping from the same time period, and therefore include Spartan as one of the defective brands of ABS. 

The Fix
As with any leaking pipe, ABS piping that is cracked or leaking needs to be repaired by a licensed plumbing contractor. But what about ABS piping (from one of the suspect manufacturers) that is not currently cracked or leaking? This is difficult because while there might not be any visible cracks or leaks, much of the drain piping can be hidden within the structure of a building, and not readily visible. Given that it’s it’s been more than 30 years since the defective piping was manufactured, it would be reasonable to assume that if your piping has cracked or leaked yet – it is unlikely to do so.

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