A Summary of the Leadership Conference
By Carlos David Mogollón
This report is arranged in the order of the Water Quality
Association (WQA) Board of Directors meeting Sept. 9, with some comments
from individual meetings:
In the first of two other California issues, WQA and Pacific WQA having been working together to address a "tremendous public relations (PR) campaign" in the Los Angeles area to get people to turn off their softeners or switch to portable ion exchange units. In a related effort, the L.A. Regional Water Control Board has been holding hearings related to expiration of a special permit for chlorides discharge into the Santa Clarita River (see California under "Board of Regents" below). On the second issue, WQA was successful in lobbying the legislature for a language change in a bill to study heterotrophic plate count (HPC) bacteria in dental lines. Since HPC is a general classification for bacteria and not specific to opportunistic species, WQA pushed for and won a wording modification to "pathogenic bacteria," Meyer said, adding that WQA would prefer the governor not sign the bill if it passes regardless.
Septic Systems: Because of continuing problems with restrictions on softener discharges into septic tanks--most recently in Connecticut and Massachusetts, WQA has proposed updating a 1980 study on the impact of brine on septic systems. Setbacks in getting cooperation of septic tank manufacturers to participate and assurances that results of the study would be honored by regulators have delayed its start, but Meyer said WQA has decided to forge ahead. The study will be a little broader than the last and will be done in consultation with state drinking water officials to make sure it answers their questions or positions the association for any future legislation. The one-year study--estimated at a cost of $80,000-85,000 three years ago--is projected at a price tag of up to $100,000 now. Meyer and WQA technical director Joe Harrison were expected to meet with regulators and University of Connecticut officials (who might conduct the study) in October to discuss it.
Fixture Flow Rate: A study on this is expected to begin after the first of the year. Also previously delayed--although related more to industry funding--Meyer said WQA plumbing code consultant Pat Higgins is working to get a client who works with monitoring equipment to participate, which would lower the cost substantially.
Plumbing Code: Plumbing Code Task Force chairman John Packard said its goal is to lower the fixture flow rate requirement from 15 gpm to 12 gpm or lower for single family residential dwellings. Current rates are based on commercial building codes. Packard said WQA's approach is fivefold: 1) continuing to lobby plumbing code bodies such as IAPMO, which meets in November; 2) approaching the National Association of Plumbing Engineers to enlist its support; 3) developing a device to help bring down the cost of the study by monitoring flow rate via radio; 4) attending state and local plumbing and code body meetings, and 5) scheduling a slot for WQA at IAPMO's major code meeting next year, which Higgins has done. While there's been a "low ebb" in red-tagging reports, the association feels it's no time to let its guard down on the topic.
Activated Carbon: Following up on an issue of potential leaching of arsenic inherent in activated carbon that was raised by KX Industries' Evan Koslow in March at the Long Beach, Calif. convention, WQA's Harrison said retired Culligan technical director P. "Regu" Regunathan has been hired as a consultant to review available information. Koslow, who wasn't present, claims leaching from certain low grades of carbon used more commonly by municipal utilities that aren't as carefully processed--acid- or water-washed and properly rinsed--won't meet the new proposed arsenic limit in drinking water of 5 parts per million (ppm). Regunathan presented reports by KX, Barneby & Sutcliffe and Calgon Carbon Corp. that summarized internal investigations on the subject. All three, though, used different methods to analyze the problem. KX--which suggests 25 percent of carbon doesn't consistently meet the current arsenic limit of 50 ppb, and 75 percent would exceed the proposed new standard--used more aggressive deionized water where a lower grade of carbon was allowed to stand for 72 hours. Barneby & Sutcliffe's Mohammed Bayati (see "Arsenic, Part 1 of 2: Impact of Proposed New Arsenic Standard on POU Carbon Filtration," WC&P, July 2000) sampled unchlorinated raw water after three successive 24-hour contact periods--per NSF 61 protocols--and found water-washed, coconut shell carbon measured at less than 3 ppb arsenic while acid-washed, coal-based carbon failed five of 12 tests at 5 ppb. Calgon Carbon's Rick Farmer used NSF 42's protocol, noting differences in standards in Europe and Japan would lead to varying results. Farmer found the average arsenic level in water from acid-washed, coal-based carbon was 3 ppb (± 2 ppb), while that from acid-washed, coconut shell carbon was 1 ppb (±1 ppb). Non-acid-washed samples, however, averaged from 39-to-69 ppb, with some samples ranging as high as 267 ppb.
Dayton Water's Jim Baker noted, since many assemblers and manufacturers may use lower-grade carbons outside of a cartridge filter, WQA should offer guidelines on practices to assure proper quality control. Osmonics' Dean Spatz suggested contacting the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) for suggestions, but WaterSolve International's Chip Landman said simply offering a standard backwash and rinse procedure prior to being placed into service should suffice. Brita Products acting president Dan Carty queried whether the industry should be concerned about how potential increased use of higher grade carbons by municipal utilities may affect supply. Harrison said that's not likely because with higher volumes of water used by utilities, 1) water isn't usually sitting as long in carbon as in POU/POE devices, and 2) dilution lowers the arsenic level significantly. Thus, municipalities don't need to use acid-washed or rinsed carbons to meet the materials safety standard: "They use a far lower grade of carbon than we could get away with," Harrison said.
Material Safety: A special media group has been brought together by NSF International to determine differences between municipal, POU/POE and small systems and make them more comparable in how their evaluated. One idea is to apply "normalizations and corrections" to similar test protocols to equate results. If this can be resolved, then NSF 61 and materials safety issues in the DWTU (drinking water treatment unit) standards can be more easily harmonized. "There are things we like in Standard 61 and things we don't like, one of which is the 14-day exposure time vs. three days in DWTU tests" with four samples taken at different pHs, Harrison said. This adds to the cost. With the majority of work complete by the Materials Safety Task Force, the group agreed to retire itself and include the subject as an agenda item under the Science Advisory Committee.
NGWA Bills: Meyer said the National Ground Water Association
requested an endorsement by the WQA on two bills its planning to bring
to Congress regarding public choice on treatment of well water vs. long
pipe distribution systems, particularly in rural areas. The first would
limit restrictions on use of POU/POE devices and allow consumers to opt
out of connections to long pipe systems where they have a safe well water
supply. The second is to promote funding to help upgrade private well
systems in rural areas. Both are in response to measures in the Clinton
Administration's Rural Water program. Meyer said it was unlikely that
either would find enough support for passage by Congress, but that they
involved issues close to the WQA's view on freedom of choice for consumers
to control the quality of water in their homes, including the right to
install treatment devices. Some on the Board of Directors felt the issue
deserved more review because of deeper policy issues it involved, while
others felt the association owed it to the NGWA to be more prompt in its
response. Former WQA president Chris Layton's suggestion to table the
issue for a decision by the WQA Board of Governors in November and allow
further investigation by Meyer was approved.
He also announced initial plans for a "CWS-emeritus" category suggested this past summer by the Board of Governors for retired individuals who've contributed significantly to the industry and want to retain their affiliation. Later, however, that idea evolved into an "emeritus" award. Still, questions remained with respect to age, a minimum certification term, cost and how candidates would be selected. Chris Layton suggested the Board of Directors approves the concept of an "emeritus program" and allows details to be worked out by the Board of Governors, a motion, which passed. The Board of Directors also approved a Certification Board whose sole task would be to maintain the Certification Program, which would include policies, testing, certification, recertification and appeals. The board is to be made up of two manufacturers (K&M's Charley Poellet and Quality Flow's Sue McKnight), two dealers (Dayton Water's Jim Baker and John Wilshire), a liaison to the Educational Services Committee (Midwest Water Engineering's Phil Olsen), a regulatory official and a public member, i.e., a knowledgeable academic such as a microbiologist. A member of the Commercial/Industrial (C&I) Section, Chip Landman noted that he couldn't serve because board members must be certified, but the section has been asked to provide input to the new board.
Rickert said it's important that Certification
Board members be certified and noted the group will get direction from
the Board of Directors through the Educational Services Committee, which
welcomes any C&I members' participation. The future role of the committee
will be to oversee educational curriculum for the industry and the association
at trade shows and other events, Rickert said, noting that Phil Olsen
and C&I Section chairman Roger Miller have already met on how C&I
goals can be incorporated. Peter Cartwright is heading the C&I Education
Committee, which is developing the schedule of technical seminars to be
presented in Orlando.
He also noted that the bulk of products
on view on the Today show program were those found on shelves of mass
merchandisers, not advanced water treatment devices marketed by the majority
of WQA members. Brita's Dan Carty pointed out that his company--which
is No. 1 in the pour-through filter/pitcher category--has spent hundreds
of millions of dollars on advertising campaigns that also open the door
to other more advanced water treatment products. Shelco's Neal DeLettre
suggested better coaching for Greene before the next phase of the PR program--a
Hydration Campaign to coincide with the Orlando WQA convention in March
where he's expected to be present--was warranted: "Make sure he knows
what questions might be asked and how to respond appropriately on critical
Ozone Task Force: Chairman Peter Cartwright noted that a white paper on applications of ozone for groundwater systems for iron, manganese and sulfide reduction is in the works for presentation at the Orlando convention. And the group is working to develop an ozone generator testing and validation program "basically around the Gold Seal program, but also to develop a standard" whether that ultimately was through the WQA or another organization.
Ion Exchange Committee: Brine efficiency is the name of the game here and chairman C.F. "Chubb" Michaud reviewed progress in implementing SB1006, beginning with raising the brine efficiency from 2,850 grains of hardness removed per pound of salt to 3,350 grains as of Jan. 1, 2000. He pointed out, though, that to reach the second phase of "going to a 4,000 grain system is not just a matter of turning that salt setting down. It requires new engineering." A sideline issue is establishing uniformity among certification agencies and laboratories as to the TDS of test water used to evaluate softeners. Most--including the WQA lab--would actually have to increase the TDS level by adding sodium chloride (NaCl) for a TDS range of 500 to 600 ppm. Spectrum Lab's Troy Ethen said this accounts for confusion of manufacturers who may test equipment in their own labs and get wide discrepancies when it's tested in a third party lab with different source water quality. The group decided not to set minimum salt settings below which softeners would not properly function for complete regeneration, leaving that to manufacturer specifications. It also began work to update 15 WQA Technical Application Bulletins, most of which were last modified in 1992. Ranging from chromium to silver, drafts are scheduled to be completed by Dec. 16.
Reverse Osmosis Committee: The focus of this group was to update how NSF intends to change the standard to allow full reinstatement of claims for arsenic removal for RO. A report on the Gold Seal program updates and moves forward efforts to get California approval for metals reduction. And now that the Gold Seal Program has become a viable option to use--equal to NSF--in California and Iowa, it opens the door for more people to get products certified, said WQA's Harrison, standing in for chairman Tony Pagliaro. Efforts are ongoing to allow for transfer of approvals for a litany of contaminants to buyers of products, such as membranes, used in assembly of larger systems, i.e. reducing testing requirements for product certification.
Magnetics Task Force: Chairman Dan Carty said over 100 papers were reviewed and 32 met the criteria the committee set in that they of applying scientific method and embodied technology that might be utilized to see if magnetic and related devices met claims. He expects to add another 10 to that, but another 50 or more likely won't make the cut--which reflects confusion in the field. "This is fairly typical of new technology. You've got to point out where you can specify certain claims... and then possibly you can pursue certification," he said. A meeting was scheduled in October at Johns Hopkins University to do a final review of the papers and prepare a draft of a final report to be presented to the WQA at the Orlando convention. Carty stressed that the task force was only set up to do a literature review to identify particular articles for further evaluation in any future efforts to both establish a protocol for physical water treatment devices such as magnetics and specify particular claims. The task force will not make any pronouncements on whether devices work or not.
Small Systems Committee: Two key issues were discussed in this committee--the shift from POU/POE equipment making claims only on microbially safe water and the changing relationship between dealers and utilities as a result of the 1996 Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA). Reauthorization and practicalities of tighter drinking water limits for radon, arsenic and other contaminants, said chairman Bill Prior. He said for the most part the industry's market has been predominantly in problem water areas and not municipal systems, but that market has leveled out and Wall Street has gotten bored with the industry's earnings potential. Despite a few logistical hurdles being debated now, though, the new regulations open up the market for treating residential customers on municipal supplies in urban areas in a bigger way than ever. As such, new models have emerged for the relationship between POU/POE dealers and utilities: 1) utilities buy dealerships as in the case of Chesapeake Corp. and EcoWater dealerships on the East Coast; 2) utilities and water treatment companies form joint ventures, as in the case of the Kinetico and San Jose Water effort to buy a California dealership; 3) dealers and utilities sign contractual sales and service agreements for dealers to supply, maintain and/or operate equipment in customer homes, and 4) vertically and horizontally structured corporations such as Vivendi own and/or operate both utilities and dealerships.
The major point of debate is the requirement
that utilities be able to monitor and maintain control over any such equipment
installed in people's homes. Meanwhile, other small systems such as for
mobile home communities, parks, resorts, institutional building complexes
and small water well systems will continue to need help meeting federal
drinking water guidelines. It's here, said Phil Olsen and Schaefer Water
Care's Orv Schaefer, that WQA can assist to establish educational programs
for certified operators, provide standards development and equipment certification
through the C&I Section and USEPA-NSF Environmental Technology Verification
(ETV) Program, and offer services for C&I clients through the Water
Quality Society. Prior asked the Board of Directors to recommend the Educational
Services Committee develop proficiency and certification programs for
non-potable water treatment by POU/POE.
Membership Services Committee
Commercial/Industrial: A bit disorganized initially, this meeting concluded with plans to move forward on C&I standards development, a workshop curriculum for the WQA Orlando convention that will include 15-18 hours of programs and closer cooperation with the Education Services Committee to develop related educational materials and certifications. At first, though, the committee seemed to be headed once again off on a tangent as members tried to define and redefine what C&I included. Chairman Roger Miller took the group to task to focus its efforts on more immediate goals. In the end, Jim Baker pointed out that education and certification are application driven and standards are technology driven. The Water Quality Society is seen as most beneficial to this group, since C&I equipment end-users and consulting engineers will be among the big draws for "new" membership. WQA executive director Peter Censky said he has plans to ramp up advertising in related trade publications with the society acting as an additional tool to promote the C&I section. Chip Landman again suggested that the group pursue relationships with related associations such as the American Desalting Association, which recently was renamed the American Membrane & Desalting Association.
Manufacturers: Should water treatment system manufacturers provide equipment and product literature and train independent dealers on how to install and maintain their equipment in areas where they don't have an authorized dealer or where such dealers are unable to properly service their customers? That question, raised by Wisconsin independent dealer Curt Abendroth, took up a large chunk of this group's meeting in a wide ranging debate over related issues. The answer from almost every manufacturer in the room was that where no authorized dealer existed, they would consider allowing an independent dealer to service the equipment. In fact, many pointed out that they would need to pursue such agreements with independent dealers--making them authorized dealers--to protect the value of their product brand and ensure customers are well maintained. But, because of legalities of franchise agreements, that wouldn't be the case if an authorized dealer were in the area. Only Water Resources International's Jerry Bishop said that, if an independent dealer called and it was confirmed an authorized dealer hadn't been able to respond satisfactorily to a customer's needs, he would override the contract and allow the independent dealer to service the customer.
Bill Hall Sr., owner of Azel, Texas, consultant Amigo Enterprises, said his company trains dealers on a variety of equipment and even goes into specifics on particular brands. Hall added there was nothing stopping independent dealers from having customers call and order needed parts directly from a manufacturer. Osmonics' Ed Fierko, the section's chairman, said manufacturers had a fiduciary duty to end-users to designate service providers and assure proper care of their equipment because any "bad experiences create 10 bad references" otherwise. This does a disservice to the company itself as well as the industry, Fierko added. Rainsoft's Ruhstorfer suggested a position paper on options for dealers in such cases be posted on WQA's website. WQA legal counsel Mike Sennett, however, said any designation of service contacts should be carefully worded as an advisory only, and not policy, because of a case involving Kodak on a related issue: "You've got to at least allow independent dealers into your service organization."
WQA's Harrison reviewed issues related to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (USEPA) proposal to lower the arsenic limit in drinking water from 50 ppb to 5 ppb, noting--for example--that a regulatory official pointed out two-thirds of wells west of the Mississippi wouldn't meet the lower level, including 100,000 wells in Minnesota alone. Harrison said efforts by the AWWA to have the limit set at 20 ppb would likely be unsuccessful and the best that could be hoped for would be to tie it to the World Health Organization's guideline of 10 ppb. Meanwhile, although POU/POE equipment can treat water to under the new proposed limit, monitoring requirements in the 1996 SDWA Reauthorization pose a problem for this industry in meeting the goal. Also, the USEPA remains hesitant about full designation of POU/POE as "best available technology" (BAT) for small systems to meet federal drinking water standards because of cost effectiveness and special care that may be required with certain contaminants such as arsenic that include ensured preoxidation and other measures to prevent breakthrough and dumping in certain cases. Potential liabilities for utilities and the POU/POE industry could be high. Still, Harrison sees it as a "lightning rod" for the industry that could attract greater attention and opportunities for residential treatment systems.
Lori Lantero, coordinator for the new Water Quality Society, gave a presentation on the group's launch and goals. Jeannine Collins discussed suggestions made at the Convention Committee to boost Saturday attendance at the WQA trade show. Those include giveaways and raffles where the winner has to be present, providing five "get in free" passes to each exhibitor to give clients and free entry for society members.
Consumer Products: This meeting--by conference call--was to be held
the following week, said chairman Dan Carty of Brita.
Wisconsin: A number of issues are on the plate in the land of cheese, foremost among them being radium. About 50 of Wisconsin's 1,300 community water systems exceed the federal drinking water standard for radium of 5 picocuries per liter (pCi/L). State regent Bill Mehr noted communities using groundwater are going to be forced to treat for radium, most significantly those in a strip along the eastern coastline of Lake Michigan from Green Bay to Racine and the Illinois state line. While softening and RO are effective in treating radium, Mehr said regulatory officials are against promoting POU/POE treatment and lean toward centralized softening as more cost effective and efficient in terms of minimizing chloride contribution to the wastewater stream. For more information, see the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources webpage: http://www.dnr.state.wi.us/org/water/dwg/radium.htm. Mehr said Wisconsin WQA also has been inviting DNR officials as well as local permitting authorities to its meetings in an effort to educate them about the equipment the industry provides.
Florida: Regent Jerry Dierolf said the Sunshine State's hot topic is cash flow for the state association. Membership isn't down much, he added, but revenues don't seem to reflect that. Otherwise, it's been relatively quiet, Dierolf added.
Kansas: "It's also been fairly quiet here," said dealer John Scheopner, "which is good!"
Texas: The Texas WQA--which has long been one of the strongest state associations--was forced this year to fire its management company because of mismanaged finances, said regent Bill Hall Sr. It will be rebuilding over the next year with the assistance of Jo Grace, who volunteered to take over as manager. Grace said a lobbyist has been hired as a preemptive move during a seven-year review of the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission (TNRCC) to promote the status quo in water treatment professional certification, which previously was threatened with a shift from under the TNRCC to a general grouping with plumbers. Hall also called for guidelines to be developed by WQA for safe use of ultraviolet (UV) irradiation technology.
Iowa: Stephen Macler said all's calm in Iowa as well, although some rumblings have been heard with respect to longpipe plans in rural areas and magnetic devices. As for membership, he noted that younger dealers seem to be happy to join the state association, while older dealers in the industry for 20 or more years "are backing away." He said it was greatly appreciated that WQA posted daily website reports on progress at its Long Beach convention for those that couldn't make it to track progress of issues as they developed.
Missouri: The state association allocated money for a new website that should be up and running by November, said dealer Stan Fauth. Membership remains steady at 35-40 with 18-22 that are consistently active.
Nebraska: Rich Lorenzen said he and his father, Jack, a former WQA president, continue to pursue the issue raised at WQA's Long Beach convention of a 1992 U.S. Housing and Urban Development Department letter that restricts water treatment equipment because of liabilities for nitrate. The letter requires an arcane approval process of softeners for nitrate removal, without which mortgages are restricted. Jack Lorenzen had been involved on the initial federal legislation written in the '80s by U.S. Rep. Douglas Bereuter, R-Neb., on the topic and had the Congressman's cooperation in resolving the problem. At the WQA final board meeting, Jack described the issue as one where "legislators pass laws, but the bureaucrats write the rules to implement them based on their interpretation of what they meant." As always, the devil is in the details. WQA's Meyer said the Lorenzens should be given great credit for maintaining good relations with the original bill's author: "It shows why you should stay in touch with your legislators."
Indiana: Brine discharge to septic tanks continues to be an issue in Indiana that "is on the books" but nobody enforces, said regent Bob Hawkins. He noted that Indiana WQA and Ohio WQA had joined forces in terms of certain services offered, which is "good from a supplier standpoint." It's also less expensive, he said, for people to travel to industry meetings that can't afford to go to the national WQA convention, particularly in years when it's on the opposite side of the country.
California: Pacific WQA president Bill Wallace reviewed information regarding attempts by a Los Angeles regional water quality control board to restrict softeners in Santa Clarita because of an expiring federal allowance for chlorides discharged into the river that passes through the city. Fake sewer bills were sent out suggesting pretreatment was going to cost consumers $400-500 more a year otherwise. Because of last fall's passage of SB1006, however, such bans aren't allowed until 2003, and only if the community has surveyed other brine discharge contributors so that softeners aren't unfairly being singled out. You'll recall that legislation also prompted concessions from softener manufacturers to improve salt efficiency from 2,850 grains of hardness removed per pound of salt used to 3,350 as of Jan. 1, 2000, and to 4,000 grains by Jan. 1, 2002, as well as limit new softeners sold in California to demand initiated regeneration (DIR) units only. "It flew in the face of 1006," Wallace said. This all ties into a recent effort by Irvine Ranch Water District, which proposed the original SB1006 version that would have made it easier to restrict POU/POE water treatment equipment, to do a study to determine brine discharge contributors in its area with a $10,000 grant from the Water Reuse Association, which is seen as a preliminary measure to meet the requirements of SB1006 and allow POU/POE equipment restrictions. Wallace said PWQA is aware of other community utilities where if consumers call up and ask about whether they can install a softener, they're told softeners are illegal.
Washington: The state continues to limit softener discharges on certain wells, said Board of Regents chairman Lattie Metcalf. This year, a move was recommended so ion exchange systems discharge into open swails for evaporation, he said, adding humorously with respect to the area's reputation for rainfall: "It takes seven to eight years for water to evaporate in a wash here." Metcalf also said, with growing popularity of the USEPA-NSF ETV Program among regulatory officials in establishing certain technologies as "best available technology" for small systems, it would help with inspectors if more companies got their products NSF-listed. As an example, he mentioned filtration media such as filox and pyrolox, which he said only one company has earned NSF (as well as WQA Gold Seal) approval for its use in combination with a proprietary product to reduce magnesium staining. The company will sell systems using the media, but not the media. "That's their right, but it puts us in a non-competitive situation and we can't do the job," Metcalf said. He suggested Matt-Son pursue NSF listing of a related product: "There are two ways to see the ballgame--sitting on the bench or getting in and batting yourself." Like Texas' Hall, he said better guidelines on UV would benefit the industry. "We've been selling them in Washington for some time, particularly to the parks system. They called the other day and wanted 10 more for 10 other parks. We do have to put back in a 0.3 ppm chlorine residual to protect it in the distribution system; but, in some cases, they drop that requirement."