November 2002: Volume 44, Number 11
Quebec Finally Splits from the Rest of Canada... on Certification
by Carlos David Mogollón, WC&P Executive Editor
Quebec is posturing to be the California of Canada, considering recent legislation to restrict drinking water treatment devices sold there to those tested by a Standards Council of Canada-approved organization, i.e., mandated ANSI standard certification.
The losers in this would be any company without third-party validation of their product claims to ANSI-approved standards or any testing/certification lab not ANSI accredited, which includes the WQA, Spectrum Labs and National Testing Laboratories. Canada’s own CSA International is accredited but not prepared. The winners include the only two ANSI-approved labs, NSF International and Underwriters Laboratories, and companies already certified to ANSI/NSF Drinking Water Treatment Unit (DWTU) standards.
There’s a couple layers to this debate, but a good analogy would be recent U.S. federal opposition to California’s tighter auto emissions rules -- which would in effect create a national standard since manufacturers can’t afford to make one model for California and one for the rest of the country.
Same case in Quebec, which has modified the old Bill C-14 and approved a lesser version. C-14, you’ll recall, emerged in October 1997 as an alternative to Bill C-76, which died earlier that year. C-14 was withdrawn in September 1999. Both effectively restricted sale of POU/POE DWTU devices by means of tighter national product testing and certification requirements. This is even more of an issue there since concerns over drinking water quality and microbial safety have grown since the Walkerton, Ontairo, E. coli incident in 2000 in which several people died.
Now, Quebec has surprised everyone by slipping approval of an amendment to the “Construction Code” through a plumbing committee into the Official Gazette (the equivalent of the Federal Register here) that requires all DWTU devices conform to ANSI/NSF Standards 44, 53, 55, 58 and 62. In addition, the testing lab must be ANSI accredited. This was to have been effective Oct. 1, 2002, but a joint lobbying effort by the Canadian WQA, Canadian Institute of Plumbing and Heating (CIPH) and the WQA has garnered a 90-day delay until January.
CWQA manager Constance Wrigley-Thomas said the three organizations are now rallying troops to provide input. She, CWQA Board member Scott MacDonald, of Envirogard; past CWQA manager Ralph Suppa, now CIPH president, and the WQA’s Joe Harrison and Carlyn Meyer were to meet with Quebec plumbing sector director Benoît Lagueux in late October about confusing parts of the legislation. As there are only 12 Canadian companies with 59 NSF-listed DWTU products (26 of those are distillation units from one company), Wrigley-Thomas says she’d like to see the rules rescinded or delayed a few years to allow more Canadian companies time to get products certified.
NSF International’s DWTU program manager, Tom Bruursema, indicated in a letter to Wrigley-Thomas that there are 13 Canadian companies with NSF-listed DWTU products. But, he added, Health Canada -- in August 2000 -- identified 358 DWTU models sold into Canada by 74 companies, including 39 from the United States and 32 from Canada. Of those, 108 models were certified to ANSI/NSF standards and 92 carried the NSF Mark. Thus, he thought the industry could well meet Canadian demand for DWTU products.
“We support the provincial government of Quebec for being proactive in addressing standards that are lacking across Canada to require compliance with recognized standards for drinking water treatment units and to promote better health,” Bruursema told WC&P. “The only companies impacted directly are those that carry no certification. You could say there are a number of U.S. companies that also do not have third-party validation of their product claims, but they clearly have opportunities to pursue certification as many companies have.”
Still, a massive bottleneck would occur if all other companies were suddenly required to get products certified that even NSF and UL couldn’t resolve on a timely basis. The WQA, whose Gold Seal Program also certifies product to ANSI/NSF standards, is in the process of getting its lab ANSI accredited (and was to have its facilities audited in late October), said executive director Peter Censky.
“WQA’s objective has always been to move our industry forward toward universal third-party testing at a deliberate speed and seek to provide a highly credible and competitive testing environment for the industry’s products,” Censky said. “Meanwhile, it’s a real burden when something like this comes out of the blue and we all have to scramble… to make sure companies don’t have to do duplicate testing to keep their products on the shelf.”
Submit your views on Quebec’s proposed POU/POE certification rules to the CWQA’s Wrigley-Thomas: firstname.lastname@example.org