UPDATE: McCollum: No merit to faulty PVC pipe lawsuit, state won’t joinby Dara Kam | February 17th, 2010
Attorney General Bill McCollum said today that the state will not join a federal whistleblower lawsuit against a PVC pipe manufacturer accused of selling millions of dollars of faulty water and sewer lines to local governments on projects around the country.
McCollum said his office agreed with the U.S. Justice Department that the case is without merit.
“After we looked at it, we concluded the same thing. So we chose not to join in this one,” McCollum, who is running in a GOP primary against Sen. Paula Dockery for governor, said.
McCollum has a team of lawyers looking into about 150 whistleblower – or qui tam – lawsuits at any given time, he said.
McCollum said his office will announce its involvement in a similar case within a few days “but not this one.”
State Sen. Dan Gelber, a Miami Beach Democrat running to replace McCollum, asked the attorney general yesterday to join four other states and dozens of cities, counties and water districts in the whistleblower suit filed in federal court in California.
Gelber bristled at McCollum’s reason for not joining the suit.
“That’s perplexing to me. Is the AG’s position that Florida won’t initiate an action unless the federal government does? I can’t believe that that is their position because that defeats the purpose of having your own attorney general who can vindicate the rights of your citizens,” Gelber said. “You must have got his quote wrong because no attorney general would cede the right of their citizens in that manner.”
A former employee of the company alleges that the pipes, used for sewer and water lines and supposed to last up to 50 years, leak and break as quickly as the first year of use and can rupture and explode.
Court documents show that Florida was among the governments initially involved in the lawsuit in 2006.
The allegedly faulty pipe was used in a Ft. Pierce project in 2003.
Lawyers for the plaintiffs claim that it will cost millions of dollars for local governments to dig up and replace the faulty sewer and water lines at a time when they can least afford it.