Water Quality Association--
A Review of the California Convention
(L-to-R) WQA Past-President Ned Jones presenting Hall of Fame Award to Chris Layton; WQA 2000-01 President Pat Dalee address at opening session; Pat Lowney and Jerry Johnson at trade show opening.
WC&P Executive Editor
As conventions go, Long Beach definitely redeemed its expectations.
Whether those were for a good turnout or hot topics at the 26th Annual Water Quality Association Convention & Exhibition, both wound up true predictions. Also true were higher labor costs for setup as the convention center was a union shop, which meant fewer pavilion-sized exhibits but not overall exhibitors.
In fact, initial estimates put trade show attendance at better than 4,200-second only by a hair to the WQA event in Indianapolis in 1996 that drew 4,370 people and nearly 700 over last year's low of 3,565. Final figures and demographic breakdowns are illustrated in Convention Statistics.
PR campaign plus
In addition, the go ahead was granted to launch the Water Quality Society, but the effort to spin off the certification program to a semiautonomous body for independent accreditation was tabled as not in the interests of the association at this point. The new Certified Water Specialist (CWS) exam was given for the first time, and the three-year wait on Robert Slovak's book, "A Practical Application Manual for Residential, Point of Use Reverse Osmosis Systems," ended with its release in Long Beach. Also released was the WQA "Ethics Mystery Theater" video, which replaces related questions in the CWS exam and is required viewing by Sept. 30, 2003 for all those certified by WQA (see All the World's a Stage below).
Attention in the M&A--mergers and acquisitions--arena seemed to have shifted to the municipal water market, where consolidation and privatization was a frequent topic of conversation with respect to its impact on residential water treatment dealers (see Creative Marketing, this issue). Still, prominent on the trade show floor (in addition to the wide variety of POU water coolers, some of which included icemaker and refrigerator compartments) was a revamped presence for valve makers Osmonics and Pentair, each of which were showing finished softeners for the first time-a fact that could put pressure on assemblers and distributors.
Hot topics, speakers
Prominent seminar speakers included: 1) the Centers for Disease Control's Dr. Deborah Levy, 2) the University of Arizona's Dr. Chuck Gerba, 3) Dr. Mark Sobsey of the University of North Carolina and 4) the University of Houston's Dr. Dennis Clifford (see In the Spotlight)--not to mention motivational speaker Roger Dow of Marriott Corp., who gave the keynote address at the opening session.
By Carlos David Mogollón
WC&P Executive Editor
Orphaned in the hustle of weeklong, back-to-back meetings, seminars and events at the Water Quality Association's Long Beach Convention, three weighty issues were missing from the final agenda at the WQA Board of Directors meeting March 25.
-- Activated carbon's ability to meet materials
safety aspects of an impending tighter federal arsenic rule for drinking
Once broached, they were the topic of much hallway chatter and speculation. WC&P followed up after the convention on these issues and here is what it found:
Carbon and arsenic
Current wisdom, via the American Water Works Association, suggests the proposed maximum contaminant level (MCL) will come in at 5 ppb with comment sought at 3 and 10 ppb. The current standard is 50 ppb. The World Health Organization lowered its arsenic guideline from that to 10 ppb several years ago. Originally scheduled for release in December, the U.S. rule has been delayed until June for further review because of its potential impact on a number of community water systems, particularly in the West, that may find it cost-prohibitive to comply.
That said, Koslow said arsenic is an occasional
extractable from activated carbon and raised three points on the subject:
Koslow said this is true for coconut-although less so-as well as coal-based carbons, and said he mentioned it to the WQA about eight months ago and has discussed it with a few carbon manufacturers.
"I see it as a SNAFU or oversight on the part of the EPA that it never realized this and it appears no one from the POU or carbon industries ever mentioned this to them during all these government hearings," he said. "And we're now only a few more months away from the proposal coming out."
Contradicting some of his earlier points, though, Koslow added that his company has developed a proprietary process to eliminate arsenic as an extractable problem for carbon several years ago when it was doing a risk assessment for a contract to supply General Electric with carbon for its water treatment products.
Other carbon experts agreed with parts of Koslow's contention, but disagreed with his main thrust.
One was Dr. Steve Ragan, Brita Corp.'s research and development manager, who spoke up at the committee meeting to say that: 1) yes, it is a problem for municipal grade carbon, but 2) no, it's not insurmountable for the POU industry.
Mohammed Bayati, Western regional sales manager for Waterlink/Barneby & Sutcliffe Corp. and its former technical director, agreed with Ragan's assessment-particularly the inability of the POU industry to meet an arsenic standard below 20 ppb.
"That's wrong. That's a mistake. For point-of-use/point-of-entry, it's not going to be an issue," Bayati said. "We've been making carbon for several years and monitor for arsenic, antimony and aluminum. We water wash our coconut carbons.... On coal-based, you have to acid wash it in a special process to remove these metals. It may show up occasionally... which just means you have to do a better job of washing it. That's all."
Initial washing usually lowers arsenic to below 20 ppb, he added, and subsequent washings lower it to below 5 ppb. This is done in 10,000-pound lots and, in a 190,000-pound recent order, there were only four initial failures-all below 10 ppb. Each were washed again and tested to ANSI/NSF Standard 42's extractables protocol and passed.
After the WQA meeting, Bayati said he had three of his largest customers call "in a panic" and had to assure them that the "problem" was overblown.
Rick Farmer, senior research manager for Calgon Carbon Corp.-the largest carbon producer-said his company too has dealt with this issue.
"Calgon Carbon has studied arsenic leaching from whole and coconut-based product since the early '90s," he said. "We're confident our acid-washed product will meet arsenic leaching requirements of the ANSI/NSF drinking water treatment protocols in the event the EPA lowers the arsenic MCL to 20 ppb. Even if it's set at a lower level, we've developed technology to make certain our carbon product will meet these more stringent leaching levels."
Salt efficiency vs. water efficiency
Still, it was pointed out at the Ion Exchange Task Force that there's a tradeoff. Higher salt efficiency means greater water use or less water efficiency, according to Lance FitzGerald, Culligan product development director, in discussing ways to reach the second tier of efficiency demanded.
Task force chairman C.F. "Chubb" Michaud said this was true, but that while softeners would regenerate more frequently that meant a more dilute waste stream which is better for the environment. Newer smart valves, he also noted, will help save water along with improved salt efficiency.
Since the higher efficiency guideline currently applies only to California, the task force voted not to change the WQA Gold Seal standard for minimum efficiency from 3,350 grains. Rather, softeners would simply receive efficiency ratings, as is done now, to be marked on the unit, said association technical director Joe Harrison.
"I was surprised because this came up more strongly at the Mid-Year meeting than here," Harrison added. "But that's where the industry is leaning-just leave the efficiency standard the way it is and list on the certificate what the actual numbers are to meet the efficiency rule in California."
He added that water use is part of the Gold Seal standard, which tests for how much water is used per 1,000 grains of hardness removal. Softeners have to be below a set amount of water use to earn the efficiency rating.
Pesticides and pests
Needless to say, being "accosted" in front of potential customers did not set well with several who complained to the WQA about abusive treatment. They were also upset the issue hadn't been taken up with the association instead of on the trade show floor. In particular, ultraviolet and ozone disinfection devices were being singled out, it was said.
WQA's Harrison said he was aware of several exhibitors that have the FIFRA registrations: "Our whole argument is not that we have a problem with the EPA rule or compliance. It's just with the awkward way they went about confronting exhibitors."
In following up on this issue, WC&P spoke with one of the inspectors who had been in Long Beach, Yvette Hopkins. She said the operation was a "neutral inspection scheme" where state inspectors come in and look at books and records.
"It wasn't as if we expected WQA members to be out of compliance," she said. "This was a convention and we were going to see the lay of the land as we've done at other conventions. What happened at the WQA was there was such widespread violation, we would have had to call in the troops to do it properly. We decided not to take the enforcement approach because it didn't lend itself in such great terms."
She said people were screaming at her about changing the rules and others saying the WQA works very closely with the USEPA and even had agency officials as speakers that afternoon: "To the public, the EPA may seem very monolithic, like 'the Borg,' where everyone knows what everyone is doing, but that's not the case."
Peter Caulkins, OPP Registrations Division assistant director, said the issue is not trivial: "If a product makes a claim to kill a pest then it needs to be licensed, whether it's a bacteria or otherwise."
Dr. David Liem, of the Antimicrobial Division, noted that if something is imparted to the water such as from silver-impregnated carbon or iodinated resin, it would be considered a pesticide-whereas an ozone generator or UV unit would be considered a pesticidal device. Requirements differ for each.
Hopkins said pesticides require registration and efficacy data must be submitted for approval; devices simply need to have that information available in case additional information is ever requested. Certain aspects of record and bookkeeping, labeling and facilities inspections are more strict for pesticides; devices simply need an "establishment" number, that must be listed on the device and packaging-inspections aren't the norm. There's no fee for establishment numbers, she said; however, maintaining registration runs in the neighborhood of $1,600 per year per product with a cap of $35,000 a year per registrant for companies like DuPont with multiple products.
Additional details on registration requirements
and FIFRA are at the following websites:
By Steven Delgado
WC&P Senior Editor
The Long Beach convention saw the premier of the WQA Ethics Mystery Theater video presentation and guide book, a specialty training course designed to tackle the "gray areas" of everyday ethical dilemmas of dealerships and other service based-companies of the Water Quality Association (WQA).
"When we wrote the new certification test, the exam committee felt like they couldn't give up enough of the technical questions to really cover as much on the exam as they would like to see concerning ethics," said WQA Education Director Judy Grove, Ed.D. "So the ethics committee decided that rather than increase the number of questions on the exam, they create a course in which everyone who's certified will have to take. This would make a better emphasis on ethics while incorporating ethics education."
The original plan was to take one issue and film a live-action scene out of it. "It became apparent that there were so many issues that we'd have a three-hour video if we did it that way," Dr. Grove said. The script was eventually written with three different plays involving several issues apiece. The task force approved the script before it went into production, and although the video ran longer than expected, unlike a Hollywood production it did come in under budget.
Production on the video started in September 1999 and finished just before Christmas. Grove wrote the script with guidance from the Ethics Education Task Force (see Figure 1). Its first conference call meeting was in July; members worked through the summer, then held a meeting at WQA Mid-Year conference in Point Clear, Ala. The video was shot in the fall. In the meetings, they honed the philosophy of the video. Should it be humorous? Should it be preachy? What kinds of issues should be included?
The entire course when finished will be in three parts. Those currently certified will be required to take the course within the next three years and newly certified professionals will have to take it within their three-year cycle. The course is worth 1.5 CPD of credits, half of all the required credits in a three year cycle. "This is the importance we put on ethics in the certification program," Grove said.
Grove also wrote the script for the Water Quality 101 training video and one other at her previous job. "This is the first one that actually took lots of creativity. I felt like Lillian Hellman," said Grove. "We designed it to be instructive and fun. Otherwise it wouldn't hold people's attention."