April 2004: Volume 46, Number 4
Getting the Lead Out
by Carlos David Mogollón, WC&P Executive Editor
At this writing, lead once again took center stage in the nation’s water consciousness with a plethora of articles on the poor quality of drinking water in our nation’s capital, i.e., Washington, D.C. About 4,000 of 6,000 households tested dramatically exceeded federal lead in drinking water limits last summer, which wasn’t fully revealed until early 2004. D.C. water officials say lead problems are linked to 20 percent of 130,000 water service lines feeding residential customers there today. USEPA officials, reporting to Congress in March, said drastic action needs be taken to resolve the issue, including providing bottled water for 23,000 homes in the interim. Day care centers were provided with 300 water filters with another 5,000 on order. WQA technical director Joe Harrison said making matters worse may be increased use of chloramine as a disinfectant in warmer months to discourage DBP formation. Seems it also encourages resolubilization of lead and other contaminants.
Still, WQA public affairs consultant Carlyn Meyer, who tracks legislative and regulatory issues for the association, said she hasn’t seen lead rise on her radar. Before the WQA Convention last month, she said issues she’s dealt with haven’t changed much in the past year: septic tanks, California and state product certification. A task force in Baltimore was to report on how to handle ongoing septic tank discharge restrictions across the country. Another was to offer an update on WQA’s response to efforts to restrict water softeners in California. And Meyer’s working to get changes made to the California Department of Health Services approval process for drinking water treatment units (DWTUs) codified. These would eliminate duplicate requirements for submission of testing data for devices already certified to NSF/ANSI DWTU standards, with similar harmonization efforts in Wisconsin and Iowa.
“California sent out a guidance document that accepted ANSI laboratory certification in lieu of going through the entire data collection and submission process, but they have not put that in the regulations,” Meyer said. “With Wisconsin, there’s no problem with this; but in California and Iowa, the device programs are just not high priority. So, it takes a long time to get changes in them because it takes so long to get them to focus on it. It’s like watching paint dry.”
On another note, the WQA found out March 19 it had won an unprecedented seat at the table in efforts toward European harmonization of DWTU standards. Ballots were due at the CEN on March 12, polling regulatory agencies there whether to grant the WQA liaison status to Task Committee 164 and Working Group 13, which are overseeing these efforts. TC164 and WG13 are made up largely of members of Aqua Europa, a European federation of water treatment associations the WQA helped found in 1978. In supporting documents, it’s pointed out over 60 percent of the European residential water treatment market is supplied by companies with U.S. parents (which would rise starkly if Culligan is bought by a U.S. owner). Word is the French objected, but Slovakia swung the vote in the WQA’s favor--8-7. Meanwhile, the British and Belgian delegation dropped objections to Germany’s Dr. Ivo Wagner, of DVGW, serving as head of WG13 in exchange for having a CEN representative observe all WG13 meetings. See links to this column online for related documents.
We also note, in March, that Tom Philp, associate editor of the Sacramento Bee, won first place for editorial writing in the National Headliner Awards for “The Water Barons,” an editorial series looking at “a pervasive culture of self-dealing and self-enrichment among water district officials” in California (see: www.acwanet.com/mediazone/acwa_in_the_news.asp). He wrote 30 editorials on the topic in 2002 and 2003, leading to adoption of new ethics guidelines by the state association of water agencies and legislative hearings on the need for new laws governing them. Nice job.
Lastly, fans of WC&P’s “Water Matters” and “On Tap” columns can now gain access to those columns back through 1999 via our website, www.wcponline.com. We plan on posting additional archive material as time permits. We’d also like to point out you can gain access to nearly 2,100 archived WC&P editorial items through the WQA Water Information Library at www.wqa.org. WC&P has the most number of articles listed through that tool of any publication.