Feature: WQA LONG BEACH 2000

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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.

By Carlos David Mogollón
WC&P Executive Editor

Click here for:
In the Spotlight,
Between the Cracks,
All the World's a Stage,
WC&P Online Report—Committee and Task Force Reports, Board of Regents, Convention Statistics and Awards and
ION the Industry—Long Beach, A Photo Tour

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
Announcements included coordination of a major WQA public relations campaign in the first week of May to coincide with National Drinking Water Week (see Pat Dalee's "New WQA President Report," this issue) and a reciprocal testing recognition agreement reached between WQA and NSF International (see Newsreel section)--the first of its kind in fact.

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).

M&A front
The only thing that didn't seem to be in the offing was a major merger announcement as was the case in each of the last two conventions-Culligan/USFilter and USFilter/Vivendi, respectively. Although immediately following the convention, a news report indicated Vivendi might consider selling Vivendi Water to a German company in order to fund acquisitions in its telecommunications/entertainment sector, in particular Seagrams--which owns Universal Studios among other assets.

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
Among hot topics for the show technically speaking were: 1) arsenic, 2) MTBE, 3) radon, and 4) implementation of the first phase of tighter California salt efficiency standards for softeners (see In the Spotlight, Between the Cracks and related articles linked to this webpage). Also, the industry won a major victory on the heterotrophic plate count (HPC) bacteria issue with release of a report of three prominent European microbiologists--Prof. R.W. Schubert of Germany's Frankfort University, Dr. Colin Fricker of London's Thames Water, and Dr. J.M. DeLattre of the Pasteur Institute in Paris. The report, which was commissioned by Aqua Europa, states no significant health risk exists with respect to HPCs and inclusion of such restrictions in a harmonized European guide standard for drinking water would be "meaningless and difficult to enforce." Thus, a blue ribbon panel has been formed to rewrite the proposed softener standard without respect to HPCs, which are to be addressed in a separate document on maintenance. This news was presented by the UK's Tony Frost of Aqua Focus, who is a candidate to succeed Frank Torfs as head of Aqua Europa, and Dr. Luciano Coccagna of Culligan Italiana.

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.

From the casino-themed ballroom hospitality suite hosted by Hydrotechnology aboard the Queen Mary to the Saturday evening dinner at the Aquarium of the Pacific, the convention was quite a show. Efforts were made to not pack the schedule so tightly that dealers couldn't walk the trade show floor or see all the seminars they wanted. Seminar fees were also broken down on a per session basis for those interested in attending only highlighted events. And the program seemed better positioned to interest the industry's core members--residential dealers--while still making room for commercial/industrial and consumer products members. In fact, with P&G's acquisition of Recovery Engineering and Brita's acquisition of NRG Enterprises, the Consumer Products Section had its best representation ever. The convention, however, remained all about dealers, who still generate the highest--and often liveliest--attendance at their sessions.
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In the Spotlight: Diverse Speakers Pack the Halls

Water Treatment for Dentists and Hospitals: UCLA College of Dentistry professor Dr. Larry Wolinsky and Dan Concepcion of L.A.'s St. Joseph's Hospital packed in an overflowing crowd for their discussion of the importance of water quality in dental water lines and for kidney dialysis.

-- CDC/EPA Waterborne Illness Research: More than 150 people packed the session for a overview by the CDC's Dr. Deborah Levy of current and future research funded by the agency, including a field study in Davenport, Iowa, to include 600 subjects-half of which will drink tap water treated by a POU/UV device. The other half will be a control group. It's the first half of a triple blind survey to study differences in gastrointestinal illness. This part involves surface water. A follow-up survey to be announced later will involve groundwater.

-- Building a Strong Dealership: It was standing room only with about 100 people at this session, which was led by Kinetico's Mike Farris, Culligan independent dealer John Packard, Atlantic Filter's Jamie Wakem and Wayne Crane, of Carmel Financial. Covered were both common sense and insider tips on not only how to keep your operation running smoothly but grow it.

-- California Water Issues: Another 100 people grabbed chairs for this session and heard a point/counterpoint between Ken Thompson, water quality director of the Irvine Ranch Water District (original sponsor of Senate Bill 1006, which initially sought to allow reinstatement of softener bans in the state) and past WQA president Chris Layton on the issue of water softener restrictions. Thompson suggested all but portable exchange tank systems be banned because of rising salt loading in waste streams and his contention that automatic softeners are 50 percent less salt efficient. Layton disagreed, offering statistics on their cost efficiency, pointing out salt efficiency of softeners has improved dramatically in the past two decades and suggesting those in favor of such restrictions should look to other contributors such as soaps and detergents that add significantly to sodium in household waste streams. Procter & Gamble's Tide laundry soap, for instance, Layton noted, contains sodium phosphate, sodium carbonate, sodium nitrolotriacetate, sodium sulfate and sodium silicate, all of which create an alternative "softening" effect to water for better lathering and cleaning. "The modern day competitor to our industry is P&G... and when Irvine Water District looks at they're rising water salinity, I think they'll see... salinity problems throughout the state offer us an opportunity to discuss these issues and debate their causes. The industry does not share the water agency's belief, or claim, that these problems will be solved by elimination of automatic water softeners for homeowners."
   Afterward, San Francisco attorney Tom Clarke spoke on abuse of California's Proposition 65 to "extort" money from water equipment manufacturers (see "Prop. 65 Revisited,"
this issue.)

-- Ultraviolet Research & Applications: Noted professor of environmental science and engineering Mark Sobsey of the University of North Carolina and Trojan Technologies' Bruce Laing presented the latest in research on the efficacy of UV for various waterborne contaminants and treatment applications.

-- Arsenic Treatment: USEPA Standards and Risk Management Division director James Taft and the University of Houston's Dennis Clifford were joined by two producers of alternative treatment media in discussing the latest available data on arsenic. Taft declined to offer any indication on where a new proposed standard would settle out during his review of global studies on arsenic occurrence and health effects. But he did point out release of the arsenic rule has been held up until this summer because of cost-benefit and compliance issues such as whether enough labs would be able to offer comprehensive services to effectively determine levels down to 3 micrograms per liter (µg/L).
   Clifford just completed a survey for the USEPA on various water treatment methods and their efficacy against As-III and As-V species. These included activated alumina, anion exchange, iron coagulation/ microfiltration, iron-based adsorbents, RO/nanofiltration and various oxidants. The most significant point was the rationale for not including anion exchange as a "best available technology" for arsenic because of the risk of dumping in the presence of sulfates. Also not all oxidants are as effective in converting arsenic to the insoluble As-V form under varying water conditions such as pH, so protocols need to be more condition specific.

-- Germ Warfare on the Homefront: With his usual wit and candor, the University of Arizona's Dr. Gerba mixed jokes and facts with the harsh realities of "germ" control in the home, this time discussing that cesspool-your clothes washer-and how to keep untoward microbiological growth down. Tip: recommend customers wash underwear last and use bleach.
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Controversial Subjects Fail to Make Final Agenda
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 water,
-- Tradeoffs between salt and water efficiency with respect to new WQA softener guidelines agreed to in California, and
-- A surprise, confrontational inspection on the WQA trade show floor by the USEPA Office of Pesticides Program of products claiming to kill bacteria.

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
KX Industries' Evan Koslow dropped what appeared to be a bomb at the Small Systems Committee meeting when he pointed out some carbons would have a problem-if not an "insurmountable" one-to meet a new arsenic rule below 20 parts per billion (ppb).

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:
1. "It doesn't appear the carbon companies or EPA have accounted for the fact that municipal carbons are not typically acid washed. A fairly high percentage of these commodity grade carbons, generally, are contaminated with arsenic and it doesn't appear anybody has been modifying their quality as they go into our cities because most exceed the arsenic standard on an episodic basis, i.e., there are episodes where you get a load of carbon and it has a lot of arsenic in it."
2. "The POU industry has generally used a higher quality carbon, most often acid-washed; but some manufacturers do not use acid-washed carbon... Unless you've developed a program to handle this, you have no way of guaranteeing arsenic won't show up in your product from time to time. Now, if you acid wash, you reduce the chances of an arsenic episode but, in most cases, you haven't eliminated it."
3. "This is where we get into real trouble. If the arsenic standard is reduced from 50 ppb to 20 ppb or below, this goes from episodic to a large-scale continuous problem. And as the standard is reduced to 5-to-10 ppb, there doesn't exist a reliable technology to produce activated carbon at those levels-even with acid washing. It's physically not possible to wash it down to that level on a consistent basis. If that were to be implemented... I see it as having a crippling effect on the industry."

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."

"I don't know that we had much information on that subject before that meeting. It's an interesting point and something we need to look at. It's probably a little too early to say how it would affect the new (arsenic) rule. It would need to be weighed in terms of... whether it actually is an issue, options in responding to it... costs associated with them and any other implications. But I don't think, at this point, we've had an opportunity to fully investigate it."

-- James Taft, Acting Director, USEPA Standards and
Risk Management Division on possible arsenic
extraction problems with activated carbon

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
With passage last fall of California Senate Bill 1006, the WQA and industry agreed to meet a graduated stricter efficiency rule for salt efficiency in its compromise victory to assure communities seeking to restrict or ban water softeners first address other contributors to the waste stream. The first tier of this went into effect Jan. 1 at 3,350 grains of hardness removal per pound of salt used for regeneration. The second takes effect in January 2002 when only softeners with a minimum efficiency of 4,000 grains can be sold in the state.

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
Several exhibitors on the trade show floor complained of being approached March 23 by USEPA Office of Pesticides Program (OPP) Antimicrobial Division inspectors and asked if they had anything that killed bacteria. If exhibitors said yes, they were flashed an ID and asked if they were registered under FIFRA (the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act) as a pesticides or pesticidal devices. If not, they were told they were in violation of federal laws and risked fines of $5,000 a day.

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:
-- http://www.epa.gov/pesticides/chemreg.htm
-- http://www.epa.gov/pesticides/fifra.htm

It was unusual not to have the above three topics not included in the lively discussions that often occur at the WQA's final convention board meeting. After all, it's only by being aware of a problem that one is able to address it. The entire industry needs to be aware of these issues.
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Curtain Rises on WQA Ethics Mystery Theater
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?

Figure 1. WQA Ethics Task Force members

Chairman, John Rickert, CWS-VI, Li'l John's Water Treatment, Eagle, Colo.
Susan McKnight, CWS-I, Quality Flow Inc., Northbrook, Ill.
Skip Reuderman, CWS-III, Clear Choice Water Conditioning, Lamar, Colo.
Howard Borland, CWS-I, Howard Heating and Cooling Inc, Weaverville, N.C.
Bob Hawkins, CWS-III, Hawkins Water Tech Inc., Middlebury, Ind.
Jack Lorenzen, CWS-V, Quality Water Services Inc. Lincoln, Neb.
Bill Maher, CWS-V, Maher Water Corp., Stevens Point, Wis.
Vicki Stutzman, CWS-I, Du-Mor Water Systems Inc., Elkhart, Ind.
Alger Sutherland, Las Vegas Water Conditioning, Las Vegas, Nev.

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."