“Forum GMS”: Discussion about the UBA Hygiene List as an “assessment basis” and material alternatives for drinking water installations.
Picture Source: Bruno Lukas, Press’n’Relations GmbH
The positive list of the Federal Environment Agency (UBA) regarding the use of “hygienically suitable metallic materials” for drinking water installations has been applicable since April 10, 2015 in its new version as an “assessment basis”. The “Forum GMS” underlined the far-reaching consequences which this new version has – particularly those of a legal nature. The annual Drinking Water Hygiene Expert Forum of the Quality Association of Brass Sanitary Applications (Trinkwasserhygiene-Fachforum der Gütegemeinschaft Messing-Sanitär e.V. – GMS) took place on June 18, 2015 at the Hilton hotel in Mainz. In the presence of a good 70 industry visitors, several speakers outlined what this long-awaited new version of the UBA positive list means in practice – with far-reaching consequences for the use of sanitary materials in drinking water installations. Professor Jörg Zeller, a lawyer specializing in building law, reminded everyone that the UBA list will be legally binding as an assessment basis exactly two years after coming into force. He made clear that not only tradespeople but all those involved in the “contractual chain of action” would have legal liability if materials which are not on the UBA list are used after this two-year transition period. Professor Zeller emphasized that the point at which the construction project is handed over is of decisive importance. Thorsten Rabe from the Trade Association for Sanitary Installations, Heating and Air Conditioning in Mecklenburg-West Pomerania (Fachverband SHK Mecklenburg-Vorpommern) appealed to the manufacturers in attendance to provide their materials and components with a “reliable, distinctive label” regarding their suitability. Michael Scharf from Wieland-Werke AG outlined the current standardization procedure for sanitary materials, and Geert van den Abbeele from Sanha GmbH & Co. KG announced the latest results of the long-term corrosion tests of GMS e.V. Under the motto “Design and Customer Requirements Down the Years”, Kai Huck from Aquis Sanitär AG provided an insight into the development of modern sanitary fittings with electronic components. The series of presentations was completed with a report from extreme sportsman Joey Kelly. He spoke of his triathlon competitions as well as his South Pole expedition, drawing comparisons between the challenges faced in sport and those faced by companies.
This year’s Drinking Water Forum was opened by GMS Chairman Alexander Dehnelt. In announcing the presentation of Professor Zeller, a Koblenz-based lawyer specializing in building law, Mr. Dehnelt underlined the special significance of the UBA document in its current version: “We firstly want to explain the effects of the UBA list for manufacturers and users from the standpoint of a lawyer.”
The fact that this reflection on the legal consequences was absolutely appropriate was quickly made clear in the presentation of Professor Zeller. He pointed out that, following the two-year transition phase, which began with the new version of the UBA list on April 10, 2015, every contracting entity can expect that the material used in a drinking water installation is suitable in accordance with the Drinking Water Ordinance (TwVo). Decisive in this is the “point at which a building project is handed over”. He emphatically urged manufacturers of sanitary components to inform the trade about the suitability or non-suitability of their materials in the sense of an “obligation to inform”. After pointing out the legally binding nature of the UBA list from April 10, 2017, Professor Zeller recommended the affected trades to inform their contracting entity that it is not longer permitted to install non-listed materials. He said that the customary procedure of “announcing concern” to the building owner is not longer sufficient, as the installation of “non-suitable” materials is simply no longer permissible. If this stipulation is violated, the tradesperson may face fines of up to 25,000 euros due to this regulatory offense.
As part of the “contractual chain of action”, manufacturers and dealers are likewise liable due to being “indirectly affected” – namely via the claims for damages of the contracting entity. The contracting entity could contend that, with the installation of non-UBA-listed materials, a “faulty” job was delivered. Professor Zeller explained that a distinction is made during the transitional period up to April 10, 2017 between “putting materials into circulation” and “using materials” – during installation, the latter is relevant. He said that in the event of verified health risks due to non-permissible materials, criminal consequences cannot be ruled out.
Thorsten Rabe from the Trade Association of Sanitary Installations, Heating and Air Conditioning in Mecklenburg-West Pomerania (Fachverband SHK Mecklenburg-Vorpommern) likewise underlined the decisiveness of the point at which a building project is handed over. As a representative of tradepersons, he even went a step further. The tradepersons in the sanitary, heating and air conditioning industry affected by the new regulations should not only think up to the point of hand-over but also of any upcoming disinfection of the installation five years after hand-over, for example. In this context, Mr. Rabe pointed out that the trade needs to provide a five-year guarantee on the installation, yet partly only receives two years guarantee from industry on certain parts. Here, the issuing of certificates is relevant. “We can only manage this by working together – manufacturers, planners and fitters,” said Mr. Rabe. “Brass is an important material in sanitary installations. However, with respect to UBA-compliant hygienic suitability, we are expecting reliable, distinctive labeling. After all, the tradesperson depends wholly on acceptance and quality.” Mr. Rabe underlined that the functionality of the installation is decisive in practice, explaining that “if the limit value according to TwVo is exceeded, this functionality is no longer given from a legal standpoint”. He also appealed for better information from the tradespeople. “We need to build up trust in the trade and we expect legal security.”
Kai Huck from Aquis Sanitär AG (Rebstein, CH) provided the forum participants with an insight into the design development of sanitary fittings and outlined the changing customer requirements down the years. He pointed out that brass has always been the material of choice in sanitary installations – for example in pipe connectors, valve bodies, water circuits and hose connections. However, there is a rising demand for alternative materials due to cost pressure, feasibility aspects, increasingly complex geometries and not least the issue of suitability with respect to the more stringent drinking water legislation. Mr. Huck said that materials such as stainless steel, plastics, die-cast zinc and cast aluminum are being used more and more. As an example, he described a fully electronic kitchen faucet with sensors in which only the outlet pipe and the hose connections are still made of brass. “Although brass will continue to be used where it is important and good, it will be chosen more selectively than in the past,” explained Mr. Huck.
Materials expert Michael Scharf from Wieland-Werke AG, located in Ulm, Germany, provided the forum participants with an overview of the current standardization procedure in the area of sanitary materials in Germany and Europe. Particularly decisive is the CEN TC 133 standard in the field of unwrought, wrought and cast products made from copper and copper alloys, as well as CEN TC 156 relating to the corrosion of metals and alloys. According to Michael Scharf, the dezincification standardization process is currently being revised. He said that particularly the legal changes to the drinking water legislation are being taken into account in the relevant standards, including in DIN EN 12163 “Use of Bar Material” with respect to “Materials in Contact with Drinking Water.”
Mr.Scharf explained that the DIN EN 12861 standard, referred to as the “Scrap Standard”, is also currently regulating when scrap counts as waste and when it is a product. “Furthermore, the definition of terms is being adapted to the EU regulations,” he said. He concluded with the information that material numbers will be retained for drinking water applications – with the addition of the important abbreviation “DW” for “Drinking Water”.
Geert van den Abbeele from Sanha GmbH & Co. KG concluded the series of presentations by outlining the current results of the long-term corrosion tests carried out on behalf of GMS e.V. He reported on the test series for the three sanitary materials CW 511 L, CW 626 N and CW 725 R as possible successors to CW 602 N, which is no longer permitted. The materials are being checked for their dezincification resistance by the independent Institute for Corrosion Protection Dresden (IKS) at the waterworks in Dessau Ost. The tests are being carried out in drinking water that is particularly aggressive and promotes dezincification. According to Geert van den Abbeele, the current evaluated results of the 104-week tests in comparison to the 52-week tests reveal that only the material CW 725R corresponds to the specifications of the GMS. The other two materials have thus been removed from the GMS material list. Mr. van den Abbeele announced further analyses for the period between 2015 and 2017 using CW 725R compared to CW 511 N and CW 602 N to find out more about the properties of the favored material.
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