Volume 44 Number 3
Website of the Month: Safety First -- Putting Drinking Water at the Top of the List
When the new U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) standard for arsenic in drinking water was announced on Oct. 31 of last year, almost everyone knew that it would cause ripples throughout the water treatment industry. I don’t have to tell you how it’s impacted many of your businesses through requests or questions from customers seeking equipment that greatly reduces the contaminant in their water sources.
Where I sit, we report on many of the developments happening with water treatment companies and their efforts to produce an “antidote” of sorts to make the problem “go away.” Ahhh, if only it were that easy. Products profiled here in this magazine -- as well as many other trade publications and news reports -- are required to obtain a great deal of testing and evaluation even before being certified. Then, manufacturers must market the product and get it distributed properly. In short, it’s a long process but the consumer wants results right now!
I thought of this as I was going through our story list for this particular issue. Gee, I thought to myself, there seems to be a lot of arsenic “stuff” here. With that in mind, we decided to look at some safe water websites to see what kind of attention they give to the arsenic issue and, more importantly, how they present the vast information out there regarding public health and drinking water issues. Following is a sample of the sites that we initially thought would fit the bill.
The site is self-described as “the premier source of news and information for drinking water quality professionals with a combination of timely articles and incisive commentary from the leading observers in the industry.” Beautiful! That’s right on with our compass. Reading left to right, the main headings include About Us, News, Free Mail, Subscribe, Links and Recommend. Below the headings and to the right of the page, a few “top stories” are listed and updated daily. Nice!
In addition, archives for various articles and news items are provided. Besides, who wants to be at a strictly news site constantly. As a complement to that, a search function is also provided. You’ll never guess what word I selected? If you guessed wrong, you didn’t read the beginning of this column. Shame on you! Anyway, I received 98 results on arsenic, mostly governmental agency reports that, of course, are provided with hyperlinks. You can even sort by date. Looking for a water-related job? This site can help you find one.
OK, before we get to the main headings, let’s check out what CSADW has to say about the arsenic standard. The “response” is six paragraphs long and seems to walk the fence on the arsenic matter. Fair enough. You are also directed to more information on arsenic at the bottom of the response. Links to the National Academy of Sciences report and the USEPA are provided. Plus, there’s an item on endocrine disrupters. The regular readers of this column know how much that means to me.
Back to the headings. Some of them are Right to Know Reports, Protecting Vulnerable People, EPA Rulemaking, Water Infrastructureand Links. Right to know is just another way of saying “consumer confidence” or “water quality.” You are instructed how to obtain your particular report here. The “vulnerable people,” as you can guess, are specified as the very young or very old and those with terminal illnesses. Water Infrastructure serves as CSADW’s pulpit where they encourage Congress to spend $57 billion on various water investments.
Apparently a relatively new site, the home page says the site is still in development. Touted as “the industry’s one-stop source for information on all kinds of water treatment,” this site goes beyond the surface of water treatment as a topic. For now, the functional working buttons are Ask Our Experts! and Design information. Under Experts, you are asked to submit your technical questions. In Design information, one of the sub-topics is “What is Nanofiltration?”
Some of the upcoming features include reverse osmosis systems, membrane selection and membrane arrangement under Design information; process information; trouble shooting systems; and operation and maintenance guidelines. At the risk of misleading you, there’s a commercial component to this site. First, a reverse osmosis seminar button links you directly to the home page of Applied Membranes Inc. (Dhawan is president of the company). An online shopping guide also exists, though it’s unclear whether or not all products originate from that company.
When you click on the drinking water button, you are given several sub-headings. They are, in order, “Latest Drinking Water News,” “Fact Sheets,” “From Our Newsletter,” “Drinking Water Links,” “Drinking Water and Health: Telling a Story” and “Search this Section.” I’m a big fan of search functions but first things first. The first two buttons are self-explanatory and useful for background information. “Drinking Water Links” gives a glimpse of the alliance of the site and some of the more notable names listed are the USEPA, the World Health Organization, National Drinking Water Clearinghouse and Water For People.
On to the search function. In keeping with the theme of our review, I type in arsenic after clicking on “Search this Section.” Eight matches appear. Not very extensive and each “news” item originates from waterandhealth.org. Add in the fact that the most recent update posted on the topic is 1998 and one must question the site’s freshness.
Making the Grade