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Low-Flow Toilets Causing Frustrations

Sat., March 22, 1997

Flushers frustrated by low-flow toilets may have some relief in sight.

Responding to complaints about backed-up toilets, Rep. Joseph Knollenberg, R-Mich., is seeking to repeal a law requiring less water per flush for new toilets and lighter sprays in shower heads and faucets.

A conservation law that took effect in 1994 limited toilets to 1.6 gallons a flush. The older toilets allowed 3.5 gallons.

Plumbers and handymen say that while the old toilets are outlawed in new homes, there is a surging black market for them because they are more efficient and don’t back up.

“You used to be able to use your toilet, walk away from it and let it do what it is designed to do,” said Jim Kronk of Universal Plumbing Supply in Berkley, Mich. “There have been a phenomenal number of toilets installed that just don’t flush well.”

The new commodes save water, unless you have to flush again - and maybe again, to clean out the bowl.

The Plumbing Manufacturers Institute wants to keep the standard, since manufacturers have invested in retooling for the 1.6-gallon toilets and could be subjected to all sorts of state and local ordinances without it.

And manufacturers say they have worked to improve the low-flow toilets.

Some frustrated homeowners have found it hard to go with the flow. They are ripping out the new commodes after their homes are inspected and installing old toilets, Kronk said.

The fine if you get caught, Knollenberg says, is as high as $2,500.

The congressman said if the law is repealed, local and state governments in warm climates that require water conservation could pass their own ordinances.

Knollenberg said: “I think the bottom line is that the federal government should be out of our bathrooms.”

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