May 2002
Volume 44 Number 5
 

A Virtual Tour of the WQA Convention
by Carlos David Mogollón and Ronald Y. Pérez, WC&P Editors   Pages: 

Following is a day-by-day account of select committee and task force presentations at the 2002 WQA Convention & Exhibition, March 5-9, in New Orleans. This first segment covers those held Tuesday and Wednesday. For Thursday and Friday meetings and the final Saturday board of directors meeting, skip to the bottom of the page for a link:

Tuesday, March 5
RO Task Force: WQA technical director Joe Harrison and consultant P. Regunathan, retired Culligan technical director, gave an update on the new USEPA Arsenic Rule and ongoing studies that could have an impact on greater practicality of POU/POE water treatment solutions -- particularly RO -- for small systems and larger water utilities to meet the new lower standard. The Arsenic Rule was finalized last fall after an extensive review of risk-cost benefit analyses by the Bush Administration at the original 10 ppb proposed by the USEPA at the end of the Clinton Administration. It had been 50 ppb. WQA has asked the USEPA to “fast track” a declaration to allow state drinking water administrators to permit POU/POE use even in situations where there may not be 100% homeowner compliance. * NSF International Drinking Water Treatment Unit (DWTU) manager Tom Bruursema said revision of ANSI/NSF Standard 58 to account for reporting of recovery vs. efficiency as two separate ratings for ROs was complete. After some debate, a subcommittee was formed to look at testing specifications such as water temperature, flow rate and tubing; and the current revisions were approved and will be voted on by the NSF DWTU Joint Committee this month. * NSF Standards Department’s Mike Blumenstein said two negative comments regarding revisions to Standard 58 and arsenic claims had been addressed and the changes would be re-balloted as well. Establishing "data transfer procedures" remain to be reviewed to allow RO assemblers to forego certain testing requirements -- and the associated time and expense -- by enabling them to use NSF-approved testing data from membrane manufacturers.

World Assembly Division (WAD) -- Convention & Exhibition; Membership; Communications; Education, Ethics & Legal committees: These meetings were suddenly consolidated at the last minute, which made some attendees concerned about the WQA’s continued commitment to the WAD. Meeting chairman Sid Fly, of Alamo Water Refiners, said it wasn’t meant as a slight so much as a “stopgap, short-term measure” because of staffing, since WAD director Dan Wyckoff left last fall to take a position in the private sector and his assistant Pam Northrup switched positions within the WQA. The general consensus was separate meetings were required regardless of whether individual issues overlapped because many details need to be worked out in committee before presentation to the WAD Executive Committee. It also was felt full-time staff, such as a director and assistant, was required to maintain proper communication and action on crucial issues with membership worldwide. * Sta-Rite’s Andy Warnes reviewed a number of previous debates and goals of the committee and noted many seemed to be rehashed repeatedly without action being taken or full support by WQA, which sent the wrong message to the global community about its “international” focus. Executive Committee chairman Ray Jaglowski, of NSF, said WAD was still operating under the same “master plan” when it started in 1996 and that needed to be revisited in the same way the association was approaching its strategic plan (see below). Fly said some direction from WQA on that would be helpful. Kinetico’s Bill Prior gave a speech regarding changes in the water treatment market such as consolidation and globalization of U.S. corporations and the industry in general, conflicts in Europe and the influx of Asian products, as well as regulatory issues and new channels to market -- all of which challenge the traditional dealer/manufacturer model and have left the association in a state of flux. “(WQA executive director) Pete Censky wrote in a recent magazine article that this may be the last convention of this style,” Prior said. “WQA is an organization in jeopardy today. We’re going to have to look at that. Right now, WAD is not going to survive without WQA… At this convention, there’s going to be a lot of talk about restructuring.” Rather than the WAD asking for direction from the WQA, though, he said WAD needed to let WQA know what it wanted: “We really need full-time staff, someone who’s going to have a dynamic personality and can communicate with all of us, keep us informed (and maintain forward momentum on issues crucial to the industry)… There’s no other organization in the world with the resources to do that than you.” Replied Fly, “Sounds like we’re in a Catch-22.” Regunathan agreed with Prior: “We keep talking about blame. The real fault is members. I’m not just talking about WAD, but WQA. It’s not the organization. It’s us, because we are the organization. And when we don’t push and get involved to make things happen, then we get what we give.” Erie/Aquion’s Mike Kopacz added, “We’re in flux. We’re in change… If we don’t simplify, then we’re going to be back here a year from now (discussing the same issues).” Hydrotech’s Mike Baird replied, “Let’s not browbeat ourselves, but we need to prioritize and get a few wins. That’ll change a lot of attitudes.” Kopacz agreed: “Right now, we’re 27% of the WQA membership. How do we get to 33% and what will it take to get there?” * Fly recommended translation of all WQA training materials into Spanish be made a priority, since there already was a Certified Water Specialist (CWS) exam and basic study material in the language. Warnes said Asia was a bigger market for many companies, and suggested Chinese. WC&P/Agua Latinoamérica publisher Kurt Peterson said proximity and logistics with Latin America made Spanish easier and more feasible and the format -- once established -- could be used for other languages. Osmonics’ Ernesto Castro said, in translating the CWS exam, a number of errors were discovered in the text and “a translator can only translate whatever they’re given.” Peterson agreed but remarked: “Either you are or you aren’t dedicated to the international market; and, if you are, it has to be translated (regardless of the language). It has to be done.” * Philippine WQA head Dr. Jovito DeAuna was concerned about membership turnover, but WQA membership and public affairs director Margit Fotre said member losses were relatively minor within WAD; and, of overall losses, 30% were out of business and 10% had merged. Still, DeAuna said losing as many members as you're gaining -- roughly 500 a year -- for the association as a whole was still unacceptable. With the world economy tight, the value of the dollar high and a financial crisis in Argentina, Fly proposed an alternative and cheaper “international” membership rate so companies could maintain their affiliation with WQA; but Warnes said this issue was revisited with the Asian Flu and Russian financial crises in the ‘90s and it was felt changing fees based on currency fluctuations was unworkable and would weaken the value of the association.

Small Systems Committee: WQA’s Harrison gave a detailed overview of three four -- two specific to arsenic -- that show promise of reinforcing use of POU/POE equipment for small systems and larger municipal utilities. He said three industry affiliates on the National Drinking Water Advisory Council (NDWAC) Arsenic Cost Working Group were able to correct the misimpression that POU/POE was too expensive an option to meet the new Arsenic Rule. Rather than more than $30 a month, which the USEPA projected, RO systems could be provided and maintained in homes at $20-25 a month, Harrison said. Still, a lot of monitoring logistics, legal clearances, USEPA guidance and coordination with local communities remains to be determined. * The four studies: 1) a USEPA effort -- involving NSF, consultants Joe Cotruvo and Regunathan, the National Water Research Institute, National Rural Water Association and WQA -- focuses on “economic sustainability” of a POU/POE demonstration of home water treatment to achieve Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) compliance to meet the lower arsenic MCL in a small town in California and will look at how successful will it be to get access to people’s homes for monitoring and maintenance as well as acceptance (usage) of the units; 2) an AWWA Research Foundation (AWWARF) project in Phoenix (of which Harrison serves on the advisory committee) to look at a centrally-managed option using POU/POE equipment in lieu of central treatment to reduce arsenic, and 3) an AWWARF study of unconventional approaches (UV, RO, softeners) to providing better water treatment in the home involving two California communities (Contra Costa and Los Angeles) overseen by Stratus Consulting, and 4) the CDC’s Deborah Levy is conducting a "Waterborne Disease Occurrence" study in Iowa that looks at drinking water-associated gastrointestinal illness in general related to tap water that can be prevented with in-home treatment (filter/UV), expanding on studies done by microbiologist Pierre Payment. * Harrison stressed the USEPA expressed some flexibility in using practical application of POU/POE technology to address the new radium standard, which becomes effective in December 2003, as a precursor to implementation of similar technologies for arsenic, new limits for which aren’t required until January 2006. “If there’s anything that home treatment can serve, it’s radium,” he said. “We could even treat water to an outside spigot, so someone from the public water supplier could come by and test it occasionally for compliance.” He pointed out that health officials remain skeptical about use of softeners for arsenic. Still, Harrison said, with pressure on the USEPA to meet deadlines established by the 1996 SDWA Reauthorization, there is an opportunity: “I don’t think our industry has made a lot of headway in certifying our products for use in small systems, but I think the dam’s about to break. I talked with (USEPA Office of Ground Water and Drinking Water director) Cynthia Dougherty and she’s optimistic.”

Ion Exchange Task Force: A big agenda here. NSF Standard 44 (softener) issues were addressed, including a joint committee proposal to reconsider Standard 61 for materials testing in the same way as they are for small systems such as hotels, car washes and restaurants -- it received seven negative votes in NSF Joint Committee balloting. * Definition of a residential softener was set at ones designed for 1-1/4 inch or less nominal pipe size during November balloting of the joint committee. * Another proposal for changes in literature requirements to mandate publishing of a “maximum published flow rate” vs. a “service flow rate” and “incidental flow rate” (for short duration spikes) was tabled after extensive debate even though there were only two votes against it (both from USFilter companies). This was because NSF’s Bruursema said that, while it could pass joint committee balloting, a non-unanimous vote was frowned upon and could run into trouble later in the NSF approval process. EcoWater's Mark Rolfes was upset by the move: “That’s a conflict of interest. Two guys dissent so you’re not going to pass it. That makes a joke out of the committee.” * Harrison said he cast a “no” vote during joint committee balloting of a “Pressure Cycle Test Duration” revision. * Osmonics' Jeff Franks discussed the importance of coming up with a standard saturation level for the required “brine system solution” to reduce testing time and expense for softener certification. * Chubb Michaud discussed the status of ongoing revision of 16 WQA Technical Applications Bulletins, setting a target date for completion of July so they could be presented to other committees for comment in September and approved by the WQA Las Vegas convention in March 2003. * Harrison and Bruursema gave a presentation on health department bans on water softener regenerant discharges to onsite wastewater treatment systems (see “Water Matters” column, WC&P, April 2002). Texas has backed off plans to enforce this but hasn’t confirmed that in writing; most others don’t enforce this although they remain on the books. WQA has proposed requiring water treatment discharge characteristics in ANSI/NSF Standard 40 for onsite aerobic wastewater treatment plants. * The issue of radium, Harrison said, is “coming to a head now because USEPA has ratified a standard that all systems will have to comply with by December 2003” and “small towns could save a lot of money” using POU/POE equipment rather than centralized treatment. The problem is monitoring, which would require a radium analysis four times a year under current rules -- and, at a cost of $200-250 for each analysis test, that's "a budget buster.” Hardness testing as a surrogate for radium monitoring has been recommended as a more cost-effective alternative to ensure a softener is functioning properly. Harrison added, if such issues on POU/POE use for radium removal can be resolved, it may make POU/POE feasible for meeting the new Arsenic Rule as well. This would solve a major expense dilemma a number of communities, such as Albuquerque, N.M., face in meeting the new arsenic in drinking water standard.

Ozone Task Force: The group heard a status report from GDT Corp.’s Paul Overbeck on its “Ozone White Paper,” e.g., ozone treatment of iron, manganese and hydrogen sulfide in groundwater. “The objective was to get into the nitty gritty with filtration rates, backwash rates and general chemistry of gas transfer,” Overbeck said. “The result… has led me to say there is wide variability on sizing in the field. There seems to be no real easy solution unless I make up some numbers that I feel comfortable with to give out to the industry for general guidance. I didn’t want that responsibility.” He only received “real-use” data on five of the more than 200 U.S. ozone systems installed for municipal and small system applications. Midwest Water Engineering’s Phil Olsen and Spectrum Labs' Troy Ethen questioned why filtration needed to be included, suggesting the paper focus on ozone injection rates and retention times. It was agreed that better feedback was required. * The only hitch with a document on the Ozone Generator Testing and Validation Program was an ANSI objection to use of trademark phrases such as Teflon in place of the chemical name for the substance.

Public Relations Committee: No report.
Convention Committee: No report.
Membership Marketing Committee: No report.

Wednesday, March 6
Educational Services Committee: CWS designation was the dominant topic at this year's educational services committee. Orville Schaefer, CWS-V, Schaefer Water Centers, Perryville, Mo., presented a case where designations could be re-defined while seeking input on what areas should be emphasized on certification exams. One of Schaefer's suggestions included breaking it down by these categories -- mechanical filtration, ion exchange, contaminant reduction, membrane technologies, disinfection and small systems/municipal. He wondered aloud how many questions should be devoted to which area and what importance each should carry. Schaefer also entertained the idea of adding a commercial/industrial (C/I) category. * Committee chairman John Rickert, Lil' John's Water Treatment, Eagle, Colo., wondered, "How do you come up with a sufficient exam? We need a more defining set of technologies." Richard Mest, Master Water Conditioning, Pottstown, Pa. -- who will replace Rickert as committee chairman -- added, "It was killed before. Do we want to continue?" Schaefer retorted, "Misinformation and politics" killed it last time. He continued, "People with CWS-V and CWS-VI (designations) were concerned they would lose it." Rickert said he took the C/I exam and found 15 to 20 errors. Subsequently, a review of the exam is in place. * Also discussed at the meeting was the CD-ROM that contained all presentations for educational sessions -- 914 pages worth -- from this year's WQA show. All attendees received one along with their registration packet. It replaces the previous bulky manual. Mark Rowzee, WQA educational director, said it was an "out-of-office process" that wasn't available in Acrobat Reader. Also, Rowzee informed meeting attendees that there would be no ethics course this year at the show. * Finally, Rowzee shared a WQA survey of its members that tracked Internet and computer awareness. About 940 responded, and some of the results included -- 51.3% use a computer on a daily basis at home; 29.6% use the Internet "practically every day for some purpose"; 64.9% prefer to read documents after they have been printed rather than on the computer screen; 77.9% use the Internet to research subjects; and 37.4% have never visited the WQA website (www.wqa.org).

HPC Task Force: This meeting was preparatory to the WHO/NSF International HPC Symposium in Geneva held in late April, which arose out of ongoing conflict within Aqua Europa (the European federation of water industry associations) and the European Union (EU) over harmonization of POU/POE equipment standards because of suspected health risks that may or may not be associated with heterotrophic -- or common -- bacteria growth in filters, membranes and resin beds. The USEPA uses HPC (heterotrophic plate count) levels as an indicator of possible co-existence of more opportunistic microorganisms rather than as a health risk in and of themselves. “The problem is that the World Health Organization (WHO) and EU have established the standard without establishing a limit and Germany and a few other countries have gone back to their old ways and we have nothing to beat them over the head about it,” said Harvey Bowden, Harvey Softeners, United Kingdom. NSF’s Jaglowski said Japan requires a limit as well, and a number of Asian nations are following up with limits on HPC bacteria also. Aqua Europa chairman Tony Frost (Aqua Focus, UK) said, “We’re not just looking for an outcome to our liking, but if sound science can be applied…” He said Aqua Europa, which provides key membership to committees involved in the harmonization process, has found itself immobilized by the conflict, particularly regarding a softener standard that’s held up other standards. “It’s an issue we’ve tried to defuse and take out of the agenda… but it’s like a knife we’ve each got at each other’s throats. Certainly, it’s going to have to be resolved. If the conference says there’s a problem with common bacteria, then we’ve all got a problem. But let’s say the conference produces total vindication; then everyone previously selling softener technology with disinfection isn’t necessarily going to say it’s not necessary…” WQA’s Harrison said there’s a concern the issue may jump across the Atlantic to the U.S. market. “Public health officials here have concerns about it because it's going to encourage bacteria claims on products that are less than purifiers,” he said. “We’d like to be able to provide this substantiation evidence to consumers, but yet assure regulators it’s not going to be used to mislead consumers.” * The group decided to table an HPC White Paper until after the April conference. * It was noted that WQRC has provided $15,000 to the University of Arizona Water Quality Research Center for a study to look at common household exposure to HPC bacteria. The investigation is supported by the WQA, Amway and Brita, and includes microbiologist Chuck Gerba on the steering committee.

C/I Standards Committee: The group reviewed drafts of a “Standard Guide to Specifying an Ion Exchange-based Softening System” and a “Standard Guide to Specifying an RO System,” as well as two Terminology Standards and templates for development of key standards. Chairman Dave Paulson, of Osmonics, said rather than simply provide specifications, the “guide” concept allows a teaching step that tells readers what’s necessary for an effective system: “It’s not intended to favor one design over another.” Still, Culligan’s Lance FitzGerald objected because it was too close to engineering specifications, in his opinion, and this was a duplication of efforts of organizations such as ASCE, ASPE and ASME that already have templates for designing these. “The intention isn’t to write specifications for engineers. It’s to be able to provide some guidance,” said AmeriWater’s Jim Baker. “What I’m seeing is a hodge-podge of information you’ve put together here,” FitzGerald replied. “I’m telling you what we’ve got coming at us from California and some other states is, ‘Where are your certs (certifications)? Where are your testing data?’… If you really want to do this right, bring in an expert on spec writing and have them give you training on what engineers look for.” Paulson replied, “If there’s additional information that we can include as Lance suggests… then we’d be happy to do this.”

WAD Standards & Regs Committee: The committee looked at standard developments in China, Israel, Brazil, the EU, Japan, Korea and Venezuela. * Amway/Access Business Group’s Steve VerStrat said, in China, “The typical reaction is to go out and survey standards that exist in the world and use them to adapt and adopt its own standard.” * NSF’s Bruursema said the Brazilian filter standard seemed to be pared down from earlier versions. It does have a bacteria claim with respect to E. coli and focuses on five classifications of contaminants. It’s still looking at testing in triplicate, which has some cost considerations, and structural integrity evaluations are closer to the Mexican standard but moving in the right direction, he added. * Aqua Europa’s Frost said there are actually 10 standards going through the harmonization process at the EU, which up until now have been mostly held up by lack of agreement over a uniform softener standard. He reviewed the history of that division and said the new chairman of the EU’s CEN Technical Committee 164, which is overseeing much of this work, is Christian Olivier, the Vivendi research manager in Paris, and the convenor of Working Group 13, which focuses on softeners, is between France’s Marc Sassot and DVGW’s Ivo Wagner of Germany. “Clearly, the direction it goes will depend on who is chosen,” Frost said. “The problem has been whenever we get together we couldn’t move forward…The object is consensus, which -- in this situation -- is defined as a lack of sustained opposition.” He acknowledged the process seemed to focus 90% on politics and 10% on technical merit. WAD chairman Jaglowski said, “The issue is CEN is unapproachable unless you’re a European company and outside opinions have no venue. It’s getting to the point where people may push for some sort of ISO process to achieve something and ensure some sense of harmonization. It is ultimately a one-sided process and something has to change.” At committee chairman Regunathan’s suggestion of writing a letter to CEN to express that point and a request to be kept better informed, the UK’s Bowden said that might do more harm than good: “The reality is that if we came over to your country and told you what to do, you’d tell us where to jump off…” Kinetico’s Lisa Heiden said, “It’s frustrating because we can’t get in there. Through our government, there are ways to get in and have your opinion heard. There are ways to express ourselves without damaging the process. We take our frustration to the CEN and they don’t care.” * Japan’s new labeling law went into effect April 1, but later may be expanded for RO performance standards and cyst reductions, according to Bruursema. * He added that Korea is looking to expand the number of contaminants covered with additional requirements for bacterial/cyst/viral contaminants. It's accepting ANSI/NSF generated data as part of the approval process. * Information was also included on a 1997 Venezuelan standard for “Water Purification Units with a Ceramic Element,” a 1998 standard for “Microbial Evaluation,” and “Drinking Water Quality Health Standards” published by the Official Gazette of the Republic of Venezuela in 1998.

California Issues Committee: For such a well-attended gathering, this was a very short meeting. The Pacific WQA announced it had a "Legislative Day" that involved a trip to the state assembly in Sacramento. It was used as a "preventative" measure to potentially negative water-related legislation under review, in particular the possible ban on water softeners. If passed, the ban would be in effect next year. On behalf of PWQA, there has also been some "networking" being done with the American Water Works Association.

WAD Executive Committee: After some debate that ranged as far as whether WAD would be better off as an independent group, the committee decided to modify the division's committee structure to reduce it to four key areas: convention/exhibitions, communication/membership, education/training, and standards & regs. Current chairmen would act as co-chairs of combined committees. As for staffing, Warnes worried about getting too far ahead of WQA direction: “In the past, our fear was a lack of momentum. We weren’t getting things done. There was a lack of participation at Mid-Year, a lack of international representation. Are we going to attempt to revise the business plan without input from WQA?” Jaglowski said, “There’s a whole lot of dealers that could actually care less about WAD and, because of their representation on the board, have more influence.” Kopacz rebutted, “I’m almost of the opinion that… if we want something to happen soon, we’re going to have to get out front and take the bull by the horns to lead the charge.” With the lack of a Mid-Year meeting in 2001 because of cancellation due to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and loss of WAD staff, Danny Taragan (Tana Industries, Israel) said: “To my feeling, we’ve lost a year. We shouldn’t lose another one because if we defer, we start all over again.” It was decided to request of the WQA Board that a dedicated staff person be hired for WAD. * Euraqua UK’s Gerry Barrow wondered why there was no response to a letter last summer to the WQA Board from Taragan, who is Advisory Board chairman, on requested input into a new business plan for WAD that discussed restructuring the WQA such that it’s more of a global association rather than a U.S. one with a small “international” committee made up largely of U.S. representatives doing business abroad. “I looked at the advisory committee’s proposal and I think it is a bridge too far,” Jaglowski said. “We’re not there yet to make that leap. There’s not the funding and major membership there to support it. And I’m not sure going out on our own would draw in those resources. It’s a leap of faith I’m not willing to make.” Kopacz and Warnes acknowledged that WQA gives WAD the power to grow and counts on it to help it grow internationally. “To my opinion, WQA as a whole organization is in trouble,” Taragan said. “The consolidations, the mergers, etc., big companies are asking, ‘What’s it all about? What’s it for?’ It may be going back to a smaller dealer association. I’ve got nothing against dealers. I am one myself. But WAD is, in effect, a dealers association.” He said Israel wanted to form a WQA chapter, but many of those companies have since joined the European Bottled Watercooler Association, which has gained 70 members in 1-1/2 years. “It’s doing quite well. I don’t know if we’ve missed the train, but we’re about to. I’m sorry, but I feel we’re out of time,” Taragan added. Acknowledging that the global water treatment industry was growing and changing rapidly, Jaglowski conceded, “I don’t think we can wait to figure out what the WQA wants to do. We need to figure out what we want to do.”

Member Services Committee: No report.
C/I Steering Committee: No report.

Meetings for Thursday and Friday and the final WQA Board of Directors meeting on Saturday, can be found at the link below.


Click here to view a followup article:
  Part 2, A Virtual Tour of the WQA Convention