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January 2004: Volume 46, Number 1

Joining Hands for Sane DWTU Rules in the Great White North
by Carlos David Mogollón, WC&P Executive Editor

With so much in play with respect to regulatory actions across the country, largely related to brine discharge, it’s easy to overlook a huge market that significantly affects the bottom line of nearly every U.S. point-of-use/point-of-entry (POU/POE) water treatment equipment manufacturer or assembler--Canada.

But a movement afoot this year to establish the first non-legislative Canadian drinking water treatment unit (DWTU) standards offers both major opportunities and threats depending upon the level of POU/POE companies’ involvement in the process. The effort is being coordinated by CSA International, which under the auspices of Health Canada (the Canadian health ministry) will act as administrator much as NSF International acts as administrator of ANSI/NSF DWTU standards. It similarly involves a consensus-based approach to establishing and maintaining standards through a committee structure inclusive of all stakeholders: manufacturers, distributors, regulators, public health officials and end users. So far, according to Waterite Technologies president Paul Jacuzzi, of Winnipeg, Manitoba, who chaired a technical task force on the topic last summer, there’s been ample participation.

“It’s an inevitable process and my involvement is primarily to make sure that, if it’s an inevitable process, it be done in a method that’s sane from… a manufacturer’s viewpoint,” Jacuzzi said. “What I saw them doing at the first meeting was going down the road that would have ultimately led to a double certification process for Canada, which is just insane. It was a certification from CSA that would have mandated a certification from NSF, so in order to get one you had to have the other.”

But with input from Waterite, Envirogard, USF Watergroup, Zenon, Kinetico, EcoWater, faucet makers Delta, Kohler and Moen, and others such as the Canadian Water Quality Association, WQA and NSF International, the effort has been swung onto a more agreeable track that likely will lead to something acceptable to all parties--as long as they stay involved.

CWQA manager Constance Wrigley-Thomas said being able to participate in how the rules are determined is what makes this effort different from earlier legislative attempts in the 1990s to regulate DWTUs, most notably Bills C-14 and C-76, which were viewed as mandating standards without fully understanding the technology. A similar mandate in 2002 in Quebec, which adopted DWTU standards as part of new plumbing codes, is part of what prompted this self-regulatory effort. In that case, CWQA, WQA, NSF and the Canadian Institute of Plumbing and Heating (headed by former CWQA head Ralph Suppa) were able to soften some of the more onerous requirements.

According to Paul Bates, director of Built Environment Standards for CSA International, the effort there began with discussions over Quebec’s action and task force meetings held last summer on the subject culminating in an effort to establish a technical committee under its Plumbing Steering Committee to begin work on the standards. It was to be formally adopted at the end of December. He said it would take 18 months to three years to establish the standards, which likely will incorporate many aspects of the ANSI/NSF standards, particularly as they relate to health effects.

For more information, contact Abraham Murra at (416) 747-4186 or abraham.murra@csa.ca. Additional comments from Bates and Jacuzzi are available in the online version of this column. You’ll also find extensive background on Canadian regulatory efforts under our “Breaking News” section online.

In other news, 2004 looks like a banner year for water treatment--as well as the rest of the economy. Most industry contacts I’ve spoken with were looking forward to the New Year with more optimism than the past few. Early indicators as of last fall showed business picking up steam while job growth still lagged. A “surge” in manufacturing activity was coupled with reported GDP and productivity growth, but economists--expecting 150,000 new jobs in November--only got 57,000. I’m sure the families of those 57,000, though, had a much cheerier holiday season than they otherwise would have enjoyed. We hope yours was just as merry.