Massachusetts plumbing code book

Code red: Support the state’s plumbing code

Sign the petition to preserve the state’s plumbing code

Massachusetts’ plumbing code dates back many decades and is one of a handful of statewide codes that remains in effect. It has served–and continues to serve–the industry along with the Commonwealth’s residents who rely on safe plumbing well and has widespread support. The code serves as a model and is a point of pride for the state’s plumbing board and the plumbers who operate under it.

An outside organization, however, is threatening to replace the homegrown framework with its own code. This has outraged plumbers across the state and has caused them to rally against the effort. Local 12 and the Greater Boston Plumbing Contractors Association (GBPCA) have joined forces with many other industry partners to defeat the takeover attempt. The broad coalition has developed a petition to support the Massachusetts plumbing code and urges all plumbers as well as everyone in the state who cares about the trade to sign it. You can help by going to the site,

The International Code Council (ICC), one of two organizations that publishes national plumbing codes, has been aggressively trying to get states to adopt its code. It recently targeted New Jersey.

“ICC marched in and tried to convince the state to switch to its code,” says Peter Kelly, regional field manager for the International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials (IAPMO). ”New Jersey’s plumbing industry wasn’t having any of it.”

IAPMO offers the Uniform Plumbing Code and the National Standard Plumbing Code, also known as the New Jersey Plumbing Code. While the association oversees it, the Garden State’s plumbers consider it as their code. By banding together, the industry was able to thwart ICC and retained New Jersey’s existing code. According to Kelly, IAPMO helped develop a Web site to support the opposition efforts. 

He says that the association has always supported Massachusetts’ code, and has offered its support by creating, which is modeled after the site for the New Jersey campaign. Kelly credits Chris Costa, president of the Bristol County Plumbing Gas Inspectors Association, for organizing the opposition efforts and coming up with the plan to create an online petition and Web site.

This isn’t the first time that ICC has pitched its code to the Commonwealth. A number of years ago it approached the state’s plumbing board, but was rejected by then-chairman Paul Kennedy.

“They went behind Paul’s back to the governor’s office, which ordered the board to allow ICC to present its case,” says Wayne Thomas, executive director of the Plumbing Heating Cooling Contractors of Massachusetts (PHCC). Ultimately, the board stuck with the state’s code. Now it is back in the state trying to replace the code with its own. “It’s sparking outrage,” Thomas adds. “It’s time to go on the offensive.”

The Massachusetts code was created long before model codes existed and has been steadily updated over the years. It is more restrictive and safer than the national codes. It is also tied into the state’s plumbing and gasfitting license and its training and education requirements. 

“Massachusetts has the finest plumbing code in the country,” says Andrew DeAngelo, GBPCA executive director, adding that its high standards are one of the chief reasons the state has some of the best drinking water in the U.S. “Codes are made for a reason. Strict codes are a good thing.”

Thomas says Massachusetts is one of the only states with such a comprehensive system in place and that replacing the code might jeopardize the licensing and curriculum as well, not to mention people’s health.

“We are an old state with an old infrastructure and unique needs,” Thomas notes. “We’ve had a code that’s worked for a long, long time.”

“The whole industry would be affected,” adds Kelly, should ICC get its way. Everyone would have to learn a new code, the inspectors would have to be re-educated, and the exam would need to be updated. “It would be a snowball effect.”

The online petition at has generated thousands of supporters, but its organizers are hoping to gather many more signatures. They encourage plumbers to show their support and help spread the word.

“Union and non-union sectors certainly have their differences,” Kelly says. “But when it comes to something like the plumbing code, they are united. It’s unilateral support.”

“For an outside group to come in and weaken our code in the name of making money is immoral,” adds DeAngelo. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it–especially this.”