Water Conditioning & Purification Magazine

2009 Technical Review Committee Insights: Shannon P. Murphy

Shannon Murphy joined Watts Premier Inc., of Phoenix, AZ, in 2003 as Vice President, Municipal Water Programs. Watts Premier is a division of Watts Water Technologies.

Previously, he was with NSF International, holding positions of Operations Manager of the Drinking Water Treatment Unit Program and Assistant Manager of the NSF Standard 61 Program.

In 1994, Murphy earned a Master’s Degree in biology from Wayne State University, Detroit, MI. He also holds a Bachelor’s Degree in biology from Concordia University, Montreal, Canada. He is a member of the NRWA, AWWA, WQA, Canadian Standards Association Task Force B483 and NSF Industry Forum as well as the Technical Review Committee for Water Conditioning & Purification Magazine.

Murphy has been working directly with US EPA, state agencies and small water systems across the US to assist in the development and implementation of a complete POU program for small public water systems (PWS).

How did you get started in the water conditioning and purification marketplace? What was your first job in it?

Graduating in the early 90s with a Master’s Degree in limnology, there were not a lot of local jobs at the time in the water-related industries. I ended up falling back on my chemistry background and worked in the automotive chemical manufacturing industry. After a couple of years in the automotive paint and chemical manufacturing R&D/technical service industry, it was time for a move into what my educational background and interest were related. After some research about firms in the area, I was fortunate to find NSF International in Ann Arbor, MI and become a Program Representative in the Standard 61 certification group. After working in the Standard 61 and managing the Standard 61 Section 9 certification program for three years, there was an opening in the Drinking Water Treatment Unit Certification Program as Operations Manager.

How/why did you start/maintain your professional involvement?

The drinking water industry continues to engage and challenge me on various levels. From design and development of new products and research that is being done on many future water treatment issues, to keeping ahead of all the different regulatory topics that represent an ever-changing face for the industry. Being heavily involved in the regulatory sector of the industry, I meet and speak with multiple state and federal regulatory agencies. It has been beneficial to have the NSF background in speaking with these officials, as I can understand where they are coming from and the requirements that as a regulator they need to adhere to. This understanding has assisted in the development of many state programs like point-of-use acceptance for Safe Drinking Water Act compliance in many states like Arizona, which has directly benefited the industry.

What are you most proud of in your profession?

Over the past 13 years, I have developed a number of lasting relationships with numerous individuals that are truly dedicated to the industry. Whether it has been working on industry standard issues here in the US, developing new standards in Canada, working on HPC issues in Europe, making calls regarding Arizona’s Phoenix Project and salinity issues in California, I have met so many individuals that are truly dedicated to the profession.

What are you least proud of in your profession?

It is difficult to say, as there are so many positive things about the industry that are the focus of what I do on a day-to-day basis. The low points have to be the reports from different sales group individuals who have over-sold a product (crisis selling).

What gives you the most joy in your professional life?

I have had the opportunity to travel much of the country and meet directly with owners, operators and communities that are in need of small system water treatment solutions. The vast majority of these small communities do not have the money or customer base to install proper water treatment to meet the growing requirements of the Safe Drinking Water Act. In many cases these facilities have historically not had a problem; however, due to either changing regulatory requirements or environmental impact of drought, they have come under the pressure of regulatory needs. To work with these people directly and provide them a solution that is not only beneficial on an aesthetic level, but also on regulatory and health levels while keeping it affordable for them, has been very rewarding.

What do you dislike most in your professional life?

Travel is a bit of a personal love-hate relationship. Having the opportunity to travel for work, I have always enjoyed seeing many different places, both domestically and internationally. Those long stretches, however, when all there seems to be are hotels, planes and marathon car drives, can wear on you, especially knowing that the family is back at home having to pick up the slack while you are out.

If there were three portraits on the wall behind your desk, not of family, who would they be and why?

Bill Cosby—Navy vet and strong family man who has found great success through hard work, dedication and ethics, all with a smile and great humor.

Henry Ford—Great visionary. Through his creation of the five-day work week, the assembly line, quality products at lower costs, increased wages for workers and development of the franchise system, he changed the business face of the world.

Wayne Gretzky—One of the greatest hockey players ever (no disrespect to Mr. Hockey there) and a strong family man. He used speed, intelligence and teammates to succeed on and off the ice. Gretzky made everyone around him better due to his team approach and work ethics.

If you were not in the water conditioning and purification industry, what would you be doing?

I enjoy writing and teaching, so one possible scenario would be an author or a teacher, possibly both. Another option, based upon the work I have done so far, would be international aid to underdeveloped areas in order to provide safe drinking water.

Why would you do that?

One of my jobs while I was obtaining my Master’s was teaching at a high school for troubled teens in the Detroit area. It was a very difficult, yet highly rewarding position, so it is easy to think that would be the path. As to the philanthropic avenue, my wife is heavily involved in a number of outreach programs like Samaritan’s Purse and corporate work for an orphanage in Uganda. With my water treatment background, there is a good fit for the two of us working in areas of real need, both financially and in order to provide safe drinking water.

Polish up your crystal ball…what will be the three most important issues in our industry within the next five years?

We have witnessed continued pressure on the water softener industry. Currently, we are seeing numerous alternative water conditioning systems coming into the market. We will go through a phase where, like the arsenic issue, there will be numerous new products and press releases coming out that will advertise the newest and best softener alternative. The possibility of an alternative ANSI standard coming out in the next five years is relatively strong and with it, the verification of which products are truly effective and which are not.

Over the past two to three years, we have witnessed a significant increase in public awareness of endocrine disruptors and personal care products in water. With this media attention and public awareness, there will continue to be a growing sector of the population that will be looking for products that are capable of taking these contaminants out of drinking water. There will be many issues regarding the actual levels in drinking water, as opposed to source water and the true health effects; however, as analytical ability improves and new information becomes available, this will become a growing sector in the industry.

With the improvement in analytical instrumentation, developing studies on various materials like Bisphenol A (BPA) and PCE and the accompanying media attention, we as an industry will face increasing pressures and regulation. This will be done through a number of options, like modification of industry standards or on a state level, as we have witnessed with California’s AB1953. This will also have a dramatic effect on international supplies to US manufacturing, due to the need for international suppliers, ensuring they are in compliance with US regulatory requirements.

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