December 2004: Volume 46, Number 12
by Karen R. Smith
I enjoyed getting to know the members of the Pacific Water Quality Association at their annual conference last month, particularly learning about the legislative history of the salinity issue in California; the success of the WQA’s contest of the water softening ban in Texas and listening to many as they made plans to speak out at the public hearing in Santa Fe, N.M. the first week of this month where similar legislation is being considered.
If you are reading this in some other part of the United States where no such rulings are currently in place, take heed. Folks in the Santa Clarita Valley felt that way once, too.
Take a moment here to read an excerpt from the Los Angeles County Sanitary District’s website. I do encourage you to go to www.lacsd.org/chloride to see all the information they offer the public. Despite having banned water softeners, the campaign to cast them in a negative light continues on all fronts (including their well-designed website).
“Automatic softeners are now illegal to install in Santa Clarita Valley, but 7,000 homes continue to use them. If these softeners are not removed, the Sanitation Districts may have to install very expensive new treatment units at their Santa Clarita Valley wastewater treatment plants to remove the chloride. This would mean that the annual sewer bill for Santa Clarita Valley residents could triple to $400 per household.
Spread the message to your neighbors: Unplug your automatic water softener today!” the website warns.
There are cities in the Valley now considering adding a ‘softener charge’ to homeowners’ sewer bills which can only be removed after a full home inspection proving there is no water softener on the premises. Other municipalities that do not yet have a softener ban in place are apparently considering the same; as some regions find themselves in the position of needing new wastewater treatment plants, or making homeowners pay for the privilege of discharging their softeners, we can probably expect to see more punitive lawmaking ahead.
Further, there has been an aggressive public relations campaign telling consumers to disconnect their softeners and take them back to the point-of-purchase for a refund. As those devices were sold when it was legal to do so and worked as warranted, this appears to be yet another tactic to get the private sector—water treatment professionals—to pay for an ill-reasoned government action. Big box stores were asked to discontinue salt sales, and some have done so in response to municipal requests. With 36 sewage agencies in L.A. County there are more battles brewing.
California today may be your state tomorrow. Can you produce the scientific data to get a municipality to revise its mistaken impressions about water softeners? Do you have a lobbyist with the experience and the skills to sit down with state legislators and explain our side of the issue? Do you have the ability to raise consumer awareness on the true value of our products for a healthy, active lifestyle?
Of course not! No one individual can honestly answer all those questions with a yes. But your regional and national WQA can. Now more than ever, join the trade associations that are waging the fight for your future. As you are making your tax-deductible contributions this holiday season, be sure to include one to the PAC of your choice, or the legal defense fund.
And having sounded the call to arms, I would now like to wish each and every reader a wonderful holiday season, filled with the love of family, the company of friends and the camaraderie of associates. Here’s to a New Year of peace and prosperity for all.
Wishing you health and happiness in 2005.
Karen R. Smith, WC&P Executive Editor