By David H. Martin
By now, everyone is aware of the Flint, MI drinking-water crisis. But there are others. The price of political delay in dealing with elevated levels of lead in public drinking water has exposed generations of Chicago, IL children to permanent neurological damage, according to a recent NPR radio report. Lead service pipe was a sacred cow, protected by the politically connected Chicago plumbers union until 1986, when new installations were finally banned. (Other major cities had enacted bans years earlier and have since begun infrastructure programs to eventually eliminate all lead water pipes in the ground.)
Any lingering health effects from still-existing lead pipes have since been tempered by a continuous coating of polyphosphates, added to the water at the city’s two central treatment plants. It’s a sometimes leaky band-aid, waiting for a more permanent solution. To this day, massive pipe replacement remains a political football in Chicago. There is no political resolve, no definable goals, budgets or deadlines. Yet the price of waiting many years for municipal lead pipe replacement—passive protection from a serious public drinking-water contaminant—seems way too high for increasingly impatient consumers who actively opt for affordable POE final barrier protection.
Hilton Head mid-year meeting canceled by approaching Hurricane Florence
The WQA annual Mid-Year Leadership Conference, scheduled for early September at Hilton Head Island, SC was canceled three days before the Carolinas saw the arrival of Hurricane Florence. Damage estimates from Hurricane Florence could hit $50 billion, according to news reports, making it one of the top-10 most costly hurricanes in the nation’s history. A USA Today report put the death toll at 43. Instead of the canceled face-to-face meetings in Hilton Head, WQA leadership focused on two days of online teleconference meetings that addressed key issues facing members. In addition,WQA members were urged to make hurricane relief donations at www.redcross.org/donate/cm/waterqualityassoc-.html/
China tariffs command water-quality industry’s full attention
All three WQA section meetings focused on the impact of the federal administration’s recent decision to enact potentially punishing trade tariffs on Chinese products manufactured for export to the US. Whether you agree with or are opposed to the government’s positions to push for trade reforms, including better patent protection, it is clear that the punishing effects of tariffs from 10-25 percent on industry products purchased from China will affect US distributors, dealers and consumers. The questions remain: how soon and how much. In the online Industry Update, David Loveday, recently promoted to WQA Global Government Affairs Director, explained: “Tariffs are in place to get the Chinese to the table.” Loveday is preparing for June 2019 trade meetings at Aquatech China in Shanghai.
For a continuing online update of HR 4318 and the Section 301 tariffs, go to www.wqa.org/programs-services/governmentaffairs-china-us-tariffs.The Office of United States Trade Representatives has posted three separate lists of goods imported from China that will be impacted by additional tariffs under Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974. To determine if a good is impacted, refer to the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS) Code. Each good has the corresponding eight-digit HTSUS code next to it.
List One tariff
It went into effect on July 6 and put a 25-percent tariff on more than $34 billion worth of China-origin goods imported into the US. It included but was not limited to machinery and apparatuses for filtering and purifying water, and parts for filtering or purifying machinery, or apparatuses for liquids and gases. WQA members who had China-origin goods or products on List One were encouraged to request an exclusion before the October 9 deadline.
List Two tariff
It went into effect on August 23 and put a 25-percent tariff on more than $16 billion in goods from China. It includes but is not limited to ion-exchange polymers falling under headings 3901 to 3913, in primary forms not elsewhere specified or indicated. The deadline to submit requests for exclusions is December 18, 2018.
List Three tariff
In a September statement, President Trump announced: “Today, following seven weeks of public notice, hearings, and extensive opportunities for comment, I directed the United States Trade Representative (USTR) to proceed with placing additional tariffs on roughly $200 billion of imports from China. The tariffs will take effect on September 24, 2018, and be set at a level of 10 percent until the end of the year. On January 1, the tariffs will rise to 25 percent. Further, if China takes retaliatory action against our farmers or other industries, we will immediately pursue phase three, which is tariffs on approximately $267 billion of additional imports.
“We are taking this action today as a result of the Section 301 process that the USTR has been leading for more than 12 months. After a thorough study, the USTR concluded that China is engaged in numerous unfair policies and practices relating to United States technology and intellectual property—such as forcing United States companies to transfer technology to Chinese counterparts. These practices plainly constitute a grave threat to the long-term health and prosperity of the United States economy.” The exclusion process for goods on List Three is to be determined.
How a tit-for-tat trade war with China could hinder industry interests
In a recent letter to the office of the US Trade Representative in Washington DC, Pauli Undesser, Executive Director of the WQA, expressed her concern that US tariffs on Chinese imports might result in a situation in which sales of US products to China would be seriously impaired by retaliatory tariffs, making US products less competitive with European water treatment goods. “In one province alone, Chinese authorities are expected to spend more than $40 billion over the next decade to upgrade water treatment facilities and address agricultural water pollution,” said Undesser. “These targets will only be met utilizing imported equipment and technology. The US water treatment industry is well positioned to meet Chinese demands for residential and commercial water treatment products and services that are envisioned by Chinese planners. US companies will be competing in this market with European companies rather than domestic Chinese producers because Chinese consumers have low trust in domestically made water treatment products and have come to value American and European brands. If American brands are disadvantaged by higher import duties, European companies will fill the void and gain greater market share, with lasting consequences once consumer preferences are fixed.”
WQA confirmed that it supports US measures designed to pressure Chinese authorities to protect American intellectual property rights, innovation and technology development. “The water treatment industry,” said Undesser, “has experienced, firsthand, shoddy counterfeit water filter products entering US markets from China, displacing American‐made products and calling into question the quality and efficacy of such products. We have worked on this problem with a group of like‐minded companies in the Coalition to Combat Counterfeiting.”
Dealers look ahead
Teleconferencing WQA dealers discussed a wide range of future meeting topics including dealing with labor shortages, employee insurance, treating millennial employees as young professionals and identifying future contaminants of concern Other questions: Where do we see dealers in 20 years? Future opportunities? Will individual dealer in-home calls continue? How will dealers promote in 20 years? How will distributors fit in? Will Amazon sell and install equipment through dealers? Will more dealers install equipment sold by big boxes? The next WQA Dealer Boot Camp will be held after the Las Vegas, NV convention (April 23-26) and formatted around a series of speakers in 20-minute segments.
Other teleconference highlights
• WQA Technical Affairs Director Eric Yeggy reported an Industry Update on PFA contaminants that US EPA can’t regulate and that represent a growing market opportunity for anion exchange, RO and carbon system treatment.
• New WQA Associate Executive Director Tom Buursema was introduced in the Communications Committee session. The Committee discussed cost estimates for a new consumer-oriented WQA website.
• A new video on PFA contaminants is to be posted on the WQA member website.
• A new WQRF study on POU devices that treat for microbials is to be scheduled later.
About the author
David H. Martin is President of Lenzi Martin Marketing, Oak Park, IL, a firm specializing in water improvement and environmental marketing that integrates old and new media. He can be reached at (708) 848-8404 or by email at email@example.com