Website of the Month--Lab Sites Under the Microscope: Exploring Options for Water Treatment Certification
by Ronald Y. Pérez - WC&P Managing Editor
Standards and certification are always a big topic for water treatment dealers, and this is kicked up a notch during Water Quality Association regional meetings as well as national conventions. So, with dealers fully realizing the impact of standards on their businesses, what choices do they have on the Internet for valuable, third party laboratory information on water treatment devices? We found a few sites that may shed some more light on these laboratories and their purposes.
In February, Pace Analytical Services bought the product testing assets of Spectrum Labs (see March Newsreel) and immediately became a player in the water treatment testing arena. The company now boasts 10 locations in the United States. Though this site has several main buttons on its home page (including environmental, field services, pharmaceutical and specialty), it’s best for visitors to use the search button conveniently located at the upper right.
Whether typing in “water” or “water treatment,” I came up with the same number of records--16. Aside from items touting its laboratories in locations such as Charlotte, N.C., Indianapolis, Houston, Kansas and New Orleans, other items look at water filtration systems & distillation testing, 2003 trade shows and microbiological services.
Under water filtration systems & distillation, Pace lists the standards for which it’s approved to test. They are:
* ANSI/NSF 42, Drinking Water Treatment Devices-Aesthetic Effects
* ANSI/NSF 44, Cation Exchange Water Softeners
* ANSI/NSF 53, Drinking Water Treatment Devices-Health Effects
* ANSI/NSF 55, Ultraviolet Microbiological Water Treatment Systems
* ANSI/NSF 58, Reverse Osmosis Drinking Water Treatment Systems
* ANSI/NSF 62, Drinking Water Distillation Systems
In addition, Pace’s test results are approved in California, Iowa, Massachusetts and Wisconsin. It’s also recognized by the WQA and its Gold Seal Program and Underwriters Laboratories (UL) and its Label Program. The trade show listing provides a few listings and corresponding links for 2003. With microbiological services, Pace helps companies meet compliance in different areas that include heterotrophic counts, coliforms, Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Salmonella species.
Many of you will be surprised to learn UL, or Underwriters Laboratories, is over a century old. It was founded in 1894, to be exact. The home page may seem foreign to those of us looking for water treatment news, so your best bet is to scroll down to the “services in alphabetical order” box at the bottom. Before exiting the home page, though, you might peruse the links of Canada, Europe, Asia, Latin America and USA for a more international take on UL’s efforts.
Back at the “services” box… at the bottom of the choices provided, you’ll find “Water Testing.” Before clicking there, keep in mind that other applicable selections exist--drinking water additives, drinking water testing and drinking water treatment units (DWTUs).
The drinking water additives section makes reference to the fact that UL’s Drinking Water Certification Program is certified by ANSI and several states in America. As an addendum, UL will also help those seeking to comply with the recent amendment to the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) pertaining to end-point devices. In drinking water testing, UL’s Environmental Health Laboratories (EHL) Division is discussed in detail as is how UL is accredited in 47 states and Puerto Rico. Some of the services provided by EHL include volatile organic chemicals, inorganic chemicals and disinfectant/disinfection by-products. DWTUs refers to the same standards as addressed above at pacelabs.com.
Undoubtedly, most of you are familiar with NSF International as the standards authority of the water treatment industry. Others may take exception to this last comment, but no other independent laboratory is as quoted or revered. Kind of surprisingly, the site has a very simple and easy-to-navigate home page. Arranged in a box shape, four main categories are offered--food, water, indoor air and environment.
Since 1965, when the organization launched its plumbing products and wastewater treatment programs, NSF has quickly developed quite a reputation for being the name to have on your water treatment products. Better yet, the water page has a good deal of main buttons that provide water system certification information.
A thorough selection of departments is supplied to the water treatment dealer who may be diversified in his business offerings. The more significant ones include bottled water & packaged ice, DWTUs, ETV-USEPA/NSF partners, plumbing system components, pool & spa equipment, wastewater treatment units, water distribution systems and water-related newsletters. Each comes with its own set of buttons more specific to its separate standards and contact information (which I found to be quite generic across the board). For those seeking more timely information, you are invited to check out the newsletters section that allows a look into things like Regulatory World, Food Safety Today, Pool & Spa Bulletin and Water Works.
Judging solely from the home page, the National Testing Labs site is geared to the customer as much as the water treatment professional, at least moreso than the previous three sites (although NSF and UL have consumer sections). Some of that is indicated at the Homeowner button near the top of the page. To its left is the Businesses button.
Under Businesses, choices include water treatment professional, bottled water & beverage and filter testing. Disregarding any sense of surprise not to mention originality, each selection comes with the same sub-categories. “Products” is like a testing catalog for businesses. This makes sense in that a site directed at homeowners would almost have to feature a retail component. “Industry news” looks at some of the developments that relate to drinking water standards. The last button, Resources, displays three articles from some of the staff at NTL including one on why water should be tested.
To be completely fair, National Testing Labs isn’t in business solely for its take on standards and certification. Rather, the company sells water treatment pros as well as customers tests and kits that will analyze their water as a way of preventative medicine. It can be favorably compared to another company with similar services, Industrial Test Systems. Inarguably, they serve a dual purpose to the industry by way of products sold to both the end-user and business owner.
This exercise into closely inspecting laboratory services is valuable if only because it reminds us that multiple options are open to us, and a monopoly on expertise doesn’t exist as may have been the case only a few years ago. Having a wide variety of choices for water treatment professionals can only make our water that much safer.
Analyzing the Analysts
Satellite laboratories are spread rather evenly across the United States for Pace Labs. This works to the customer’s advantage. Other than that, this site is fairly bland. Pace only purchased Spectrum this year so we’ll give them some leeway to upgrade the website.
For water treatment connoisseurs, the search button is the only one that matters. A brief description is given for each drinking water standard, which is a plus. It’s suggested you utilize links to the right of each page visited-- such as directory, chemicals and components--for further details.
The home page is a no-brainer for the navigationally challenged. The DWTU standards “leader” offers listings, backgrounders and newsletters that serve as a nice complement to bottled water, packaged ice, pools & spas, plumbing, wastewater and the ETV program.
While consumers get more prominent play under “homeowner” heading, targeted businesses include dealers, well drillers, and home inspectors with many more categories under construction. Product validation shows up under filter testing. Extensive line of water testing tools listed as products.
EXTRA: Certifying the Results
For other lab services and information about standards and certification programs, see the following:
* WQA Lab Services & Gold Seal Program: www.wqa.org/sitelogic.cfm?ID=1003
* CSA International: www.csa-international.org
* American National Standards Institute: www.ansi.org
* American Society of Testing Materials: www.astm.org
* American Association for Laboratory Accreditation: www.a2la2.net