Water Conditioning & Purification Magazine

North America: Imagine H2O challengers selected

Wednesday, February 15th, 2017

Imagine H2O announced its selection of 12 startups to advance to the 8th annual Accelerator Program, including Acoustic Sensing Technology (UK), AquaSeca, Arable Labs, EMAGIN, Flo Techologies, FREDSense, Hydromodel Host (Spain), Lotic Labs, PlutoAI, Sutro, Triple Bottom Line Enterprises (Ethiopia) and Utilis (Israel). They will join the organization’s growing portfolio of 70 alumni companies, which represent over $1 in every $10 of early-stage investment in the water sector. Over 180 startups from 20 countries registered for the Challenge. The finalists will be honored at Imagine H2O’s WaterGala ‘17 on March 15 in San Francisco, CA, where the organization will announce the Challenge’s overall winner.

POU Filtration: A Water Safety Plan Essential

Sunday, January 15th, 2017

By Kelly A. Reynolds, MSPH, PhD

A proactive approach is needed to effectively manage indigenous microbes in tap water supplies. Microbes such as Legionella, Mycobacterium, Pseudomonas and various free-living amoeba are naturally present in tap water and increase in concentration exponentially under the right growth conditions. Failure to be proactive has resulted in adverse human health effects, including severe illness and death, as well as costly litigation. Studies indicate that 10-40 percent of hospital-acquired pneumonias are Legionnaire’s disease and that from 2011-2012, 67 percent (14/21) of Legionella outbreaks and 86 percent (12/14) of outbreak-associated deaths were in healthcare facilities.(1) While POU devices offer solutions at the tap, the need for proper maintenance and cost effectiveness must be carefully considered.

A proactive approach

Over the last decade, increases in Legionella outbreaks have spurred numerous media headlines:

“Warning that ‘warm water’ systems in apartment buildings pose Legionella risk.” www.theage.com.au/national/investigations/warm-water-systems-in-apartment-buildings-a-legionella-risk-20161201-gt1mxl.html. Melbourne’s The Age. 12/4/2016
“Prison aware of Legionella in water.” http://triblive.com/local/allegheny/11501687-74/department-legionella-cooling. Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. 11/20/2016

“Flint water likely Legionella cause, expert says.” www.detroitnews.com/story/news/michigan/flint-water-crisis/2016/12/04/flint-water-switch-bacteria-legionnaires/94979698/. The Detroit News. 12/06/2016.

“Gardeners warned as Legionella infections spike in Marlborough.” www.stuff.co.nz/national/health/87381767/gardeners-warned-as-legionella-infections-spike-in-marlborough. Fairfax Stuff. 12/09/2016.

This outbreak surge and increased awareness has prompted government agencies and industry stakeholders to release numerous directives on legionellosis prevention training, reporting and response. Recently, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) issued a new guide and toolkit, Developing a Water Management Program to Reduce Legionella Growth and Spread in Buildings: A Practical Guide to Implementing Industry Standards(2) and have teamed with the National Network of Public Health Institutes and researchers at the University of Arizona to create a user-friendly online training aimed at proactive Legionella monitoring and control that will be available by fall 2017.

Larger-building water systems, such as those in hospitals, require a proactive treatment approach but have competing priorities. Reduced energy costs and increased safety against scalding are benefits of maintaining lower hot-water system temperatures but can create a more favorable environment for bacterial growth. Optimal temperature for hot water is > 51°C (124°F), which requires a setting of 60°C (140°F) to maintain high temperatures throughout the premise plumbing. Responsibilities for system maintenance may include facility managers or administration, infection preventionists or environmental services personnel. Building design, water-use patterns, stagnation zones, patient vulnerabilities and treatment practices may be unique to specific sites. Therefore, site-specific assessments of critical control points and optimal treatment zones are essential for developing an effective management plan.

Water safety plan development

A review of current practices in Legionella prevention reveals training gaps for environmental health professionals. Recent recommendations from the World Health Organization (WHO), CDC and the American Society of Heating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) represent a shift toward increased responsibility for facilities to manage contamination risks by developing a water safety plan for individual sites. The first step in developing such a plan is to understand Legionella characteristics, transmission and incidence, risk-assessment tools and control options matched with site-specific environmental characteristics of influence.

While development of a water safety plan is critical for legionellosis prevention, even well-maintained systems can harbor the harmful bacteria. Zones of stagnation or biofilm growth are common in premise plumbing and difficult to control. Thus, a multi-barrier approach to prevent Legionella exposures is necessary. Regardless of controls put in place, monitoring is required to determine water quality and safety. Routine monitoring can help to determine whether controls are effective or if changes in water distribution variables contribute to an increase in bacterial concentrations.

The CDC has not established a safe level of Legionella and positive results are likely due to the nature and ubiquity of the organism. The presence of Legionella does not automatically mean there are adverse health effects or an outbreak occurring. The balance between environmental concentration, infectious dose, exposure probabilities and host susceptibility are in a complex balance regarding disease manifestation.

jan2017_reynolds-membrane-filtration-graphicPOU treatment benefits

As a final barrier to reducing the risks of Legionella and other indigenous pathogen exposure, POU filtration devices have been incorporated into targeted water safety plans. Filtration technologies capable of removing Legionella include microfiltration (MF), ultrafiltration (UF), nanofiltration (NF) and reverse osmosis (RO). Figure 1 shows a comparison of filtration technologies, particle sizes and molecular weight cut-off limits.

Legionella cells measured from laboratory cultures range from 0.3-0.9 um wide and 2-20 um long (WHO, 2007) and thus a variety of filtration options is available for removal of bacteria from tap-water supplies. POU filtration offers an effective approach for residential and large-scale (i.e., schools, hospitals, hotels, long-term care facilities) water system treatment, either for proactive maintenance or emergency response.

Research has shown that POU treatment in hospital wards with patient populations at high risk for water-related infections is especially beneficial. For example, a study of water-related bacterial infections in a sub-acute care unit in a 208-bed medical center found POU water filtration to significantly and cost-effectively reduce the risk of Legionella colonization and infection.(4) In this same study, 28 percent (6/21) of unfiltered tap-water samples tested positive for water-based pathogens compared to zero percent (0/42) of filtered water samples. A 90.2-percent, statistically significant reduction in patient colonization rates (resulting in a net savings of $231K in patient care costs) were also documented.

POU devices are certified for removal of microbes relative to the appropriate ANSI standard (Standard 53: Drinking Water Treatment Units–Health Effects and Standard 58: Reverse Osmosis Drinking Water Treatment Systems). While numerous studies have shown POU-filtration success for controlling Legionella in hospital systems, they are usually implemented as part of an overall disinfection treatment plan and are commonly referred to as an emergency remediation action along with system flushing, super-heating the water and shock chlorination. Few feasibility studies where POU devices are used routinely as a management solution have been reported but with recommended filter replacement every four to eight weeks, routine use of the method could be very costly.(3) Furthermore, biofilm growth and increased counts of general bacteria (i.e., heterotrophic plate count) must be managed in the POU devices via frequent filter changes or other antibacterial treatments. Improper maintenance of POU devices cannot be tolerated, as this may result in concentration of bacteria, membrane fouling and increased exposures as biofilm eventually slough off. While following manufacturer’s instructions for proper use and maintenance is critical, US EPA further provides guidance on POU device operation and maintenance. In that document, examples of maintenance logs are provided for tracking flows, replacement needs/rates and inspection of mechanical warning devices for routine part replacement/repair.(5)

Conclusions

Overall, control of premise-plumbing contamination is now generally accepted to be the responsibility of the facility owner or manager. Given the variability of systems, there is a need for site-specific assessments of risk and appropriate water management or safety plans. While POU devices offer effective management of Legionella and other bacteria contaminating distribution systems, evaluation of cost-effectiveness, efficacy and feasibility need further exploration.

References

  1. Beer, KD, Gargano, JW, Roberts, VA, et al. Surveillance for Waterborne Disease Outbreaks Associated with Drinking Water – United States, 2011-2012. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2015;64(31):842-848. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26270059. Accessed June 20, 2016.
  2. CDC. Developing a Water Management Program to Reduce Legionella Growth & Spread in Buildings: A Practical Guide to Implementing Industry Standards, 2016. www.cdc.gov/legionella/maintenance/wmp-toolkit.html.
  3. US EPA. Technologies for Legionella Control in Premise Plumbing Systems: Scientific Literature Review, 2016. https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2016-09/documents/legionella_document_master_september_2016_final.pdf. Accessed December 14, 2016.
  4. Holmes C, Cervia JS, Ortolano GA, Canonica FP. Preventive Efficacy and Cost-Effectiveness of Point-of-Use Water Filtration in a Subacute Care Unit. Vol 38, 2010. doi:10.1016/j.ajic.2009.04.284.
  5. US EPA. Point-of-Use or Point-of-Entry Treatment Options for Small Drinking Water Systems. Arlington, VA; 2006.

reynolds_kelly_new2016_mugAbout the author

Dr. Kelly A. Reynolds is an Associate Professor at the University of Arizona College of Public Health. She holds a Master of Science Degree in public health from the University of South Florida and a doctorate in microbiology from the University of Arizona. Reynolds is WC&P’s Public Health Editor and a former member of the Technical Review Committee. She can be reached via email at reynolds@u.arizona.edu

NSF/ANSI 419 Public Drinking Water Equipment Performance–Filtration

Sunday, January 15th, 2017

By Rick Andrew

First promulgated as a new standard in January, 2015, NSF/ANSI 419 Public Drinking Water Equipment Performance–Filtration provides a test procedure for performance evaluation for the product-specific challenge testing of full-scale UF and MF membrane modules, bag filters and cartridge filters for the removal of microbial contaminants. The standard also provides procedures to develop challenge-testing log removal values (LRVC_TEST), as required in the US EPA’s Long Term 2 Enhanced Surface Water Treatment Rule (LT2 Rule), published in 40 CFR 141-subpart W. The LT2 Rule applies to all public water systems that use surface water or groundwater that is under the direct influence of surface water. It requires these public water systems to use treatment technologies to reduce exposures to Cryptosporidium that may be entering surface waters through runoff. The LT2 Rule also requires membrane filtration and UV products used for Cryptosporidium treatment in these public water supplies to undergo testing in the laboratory to confirm the systems perform as specified.

Cryptosporidium

Cryptosporidium is a tiny parasite that can affect livestock (such as cattle and chickens) and also humans. It is transmitted through the fecal-oral pathway. The reason it is of such concern in drinking water is that it exists in cyst form until it enters a mammalian host. This cyst form has a hard shell that is resistant to chlorine and other chemical disinfectants. As such, it can enter public water supplies that have a surface water source via runoff from areas with infected livestock feces and can infect people even if that public water supply is properly disinfected. This unique characteristic of Cryptosporidium (and resulting consumer infections) is why the LT2 Rule was developed. There are a number of treatment technologies that are effective in treating water that may be contaminated with Cryptosporidium. The LT2 Rule recognizes the various possibilities for treatment technologies by specifically including the following:

The role of public water supplies

Public water supplies falling under the scope of the LT2 Rule are required to demonstrate that they are in conformance with its requirements. This demonstration requirement, however, can leave them in a challenging position. Public water supplies may be attempting to demonstrate conformance by assembling a collection of various test reports, calculations based on the data derived from the test reports and related information obtained from equipment vendors. The test reports may be issued by laboratories or engineering firms. The testing itself may be conducted under a range of conditions using a variety of procedures. If a community water system seeks to install equipment that is new to the market and has not been previously tested, this work must be completed prior to the installation occurring.
Beyond testing and calculations, the LT2 Rule includes manufacturing quality-control requirements for water treatment equipment. These requirements can be especially difficult for public water supplies to confirm because manufacturing quality control is a completely separate issue from product efficacy testing. The other consideration that public water supplies are faced with is the possibility that the manufacturer could make changes to the product or manufacturing process after the testing is completed. In these cases, even if the public water supply is aware of product modifications, it can be unclear as to the impact of the modifications on the validity of previously generated test results.

jan2017_andrew-figure-1Third-party certification

This scenario is one that is ideally addressed by the implementation of third-party certification to a standard: regulations exist, but manufacturers, buyers and regulators cannot easily establish and confirm that there is conformance to the regulations. Developing a standard and third-party certification to it creates a mechanism for all the affected stakeholders to confidently assure conformance to the requirements. With this in mind, the NSF Joint Committee on Public Drinking Water Equipment performance developed NSF/ANSI 419, allowing third-party certification. With the implementation of third-party certification, the three main challenges in assuring conformance to the regulatory requirements can much more easily be addressed:

  • The testing, calculation and documentation requirements are standardized, clarified and detailed in a transparent fashion through a consensus document based on the LT2 Rule.
  • Continuity in suppliers and manufacturing processes is confirmed during manufacturing facility audits.
  • Adherence to manufacturing quality-control criteria required by the LT2 Rule is also confirmed during the manufacturing facility audits.

The basic content of NSF/ANSI 419 is described in Figure 1.

Safety of materials in contact with drinking water

The LT2 Rule does not address the safety of materials of construction of these products for contact with drinking water. Most US states, however, require conformance to NSF/ANSI 61 for safety for materials in contact with drinking water for non-residential water treatment equipment. As a result, NSF/ANSI 419 includes the requirement that materials in contact with drinking water must conform to NSF/ANSI 61.

Meeting the needs of stakeholders

LT2 Rule requires public water suppliers to include additional treatment for protection against contamination by Cryptosporidium. Equipment manufacturers serve this market need by developing and providing equipment to enable the public water supplies conform to the requirements of the rule. Third-party certification to NSF/ANSI 419 Public Drinking Water Equipment Performance–Filtration allows the stakeholders in this market, including manufacturers, public water suppliers and consumers, to be confident that third-party-certified equipment meets the treatment and quality assurance requirements of LT2 and that the equipment is manufactured in a consistent manner over time.

Andrew_Rick_mugAbout the author

Rick Andrew is NSF’s Director of Global Business Development–Water Systems. Previously, he served as General Manager of NSF’s Drinking Water Treatment Units (POU/POE), ERS (Protocols) and Biosafety Cabinetry Programs. Andrew has a Bachelor’s Degree in chemistry and an MBA from the University of Michigan. He can be reached at (800) NSF-MARK or email: Andrew@nsf.org

Simple Recipe for Success

Sunday, January 15th, 2017

jan2017_dp_facility-picBy Donna Kreutz

Matt Zarra walked away from a lucrative, fast-track career in the pharmaceutical industry to stay in his hometown of Dunedin, Florida and learn the water treatment business from the ground up. He took over the family business a decade ago and has led it to double-digit growth every year since.

“I have been with Florida Water Treatment for 10 years and I have held every single position in our company. I’m a very detail-oriented person and for me to be comfortable leading other people, I have to understand what they go through every day and how to successfully perform their jobs. Before I officially took over as President of the company in 2006, I spent almost a year doing everything from delivering salt and working on a service truck to building equipment in the warehouse and installing it. Those were the most crucial and valuable lessons I could have learned in this industry because it gave me an overall understanding of all aspects of the water treatment industry.”
jan2017_dp-info-box-and-pic

Florida Water Treatment was founded as a family business in 1951, then bought by his wife’s family in 1983. His father-in-law Herb Bloom retired after Zarra took charge and remains a co-owner. Bloom had wanted him to become involved in the family business for several years but Zarra wasn’t interested. “I was doing really well working for a pharmaceutical company. I was winning many sales awards and was consistently in the top two percent of the sales reps nationally. Then the company wanted to move me up—and that included a move to Connecticut. I’m a Florida boy. I was born and raised here. I love to fish, be outside, on the water. My wife and I had been married for about four years and her family was here too. It didn’t seem real appealing to head up there.”

That’s when Zarra decided to join the family business after all. He quickly developed his own recipe for success. “I firmly believe in taking care of customers, providing a good quality product at a more than fair price, training employees in all aspects of the business and paying them well. It’s a simple recipe: work hard; do what’s expected of you; do it right the first time. I also firmly believe that how you handle problems when they arise is what makes or breaks a company.”

Laser-focused on quality and service

“The biggest challenge we have faced at FWT is rapid growth in our marketplace. We have had double-digit growth year over year for the past decade. We’ve grown from seven to 17 employees. Just in the past two years, we have had to hire three additional service technicians, as well as an additional installation crew to keep up with demand. Currently we are installing from 150 to 175 systems a month, while running close to 700 service calls a month—and this is all done without a sales staff. We don’t make cold calls. We focus on review sites like Angie’s List. We have close to 800 reviews, which is seven times more than our closest competitor. From good reviews we pick up a lot of business. And we do a lot of Internet advertising.”

The company currently covers the entire Tampa Bay area, which spans seven counties (about a 100-mile radius). “We provide all aspects of water treatment, including sales and installation of new equipment, service on all makes and models of water treatment equipment and salt delivery. We build our own equipment to order. Our business is 70-percent residential and 30-percent commercial. We test each and every customer’s water and go out to assess every installation to make sure the equipment we build is the right fit for the home and will provide the water the customer is expecting, without any surprises for the customer. No matter how large we grow, we want to keep the family feel to Florida Water Treatment because that is what keeps our customers coming back and continuing to provide us with referrals.

“All our employees are continuously trained on all of our products. Everyone from our office staff to our salt driver is trained to make sure they can answer any and all questions as they arise. We work closely with the manufacturers and our distribution channels to stay up to date with new products, as well as existing products. We put a lot of blood, sweat and tears into training each and every employee to make sure that we cut out return calls and needless frustration for our customers. We don’t use subcontractors. Everyone is in-house, allowing us to have a tight grip on quality control and customer service. We live and die by our reputation and at the end of the day, that is all you really have.”

Hiring people eager to learn

“I demand the highest level of service from all of my employees and will tolerate nothing less—but I also share the wealth. We have not had an employee leave in nearly seven years. We take care of our employees. We pay 100 percent of their healthcare. We have profit sharing. We’re generous with pay. We do reviews twice a year and if they deserve a raise, we give it to them. We treat them like family. We are a family and everybody helps each other out.” They even had two dogs on staff: Bailey and Zane. “I learned a long time ago that it’s a lot more expensive to continue to hire new people with a revolving door than it is to pay your guys a little bit more to keep them. Most of our employees did not have experience in the industry. I like to hire people I can train—a fresh canvas. They don’t have bad habits and they’re like a sponge, ready to learn.”

Zarra himself soaked up plenty of knowledge quickly when he joined the family business. His father-in-law was a RainSoft dealer in Chicago before moving to Florida to escape the harsh winters. “He gave me the base of what I needed to know.” His own father was also a strong influence. “My father was a civil engineer by trade and had a large firm with 110 employees. I got a lot of my work ethic from my father as I grew up. He worked very hard and had a very successful business.”

Dunedin is 20 miles due west of Tampa Bay on the Gulf of Mexico. It’s paradise to Zarra. He only left long enough to complete a Bachelor’s Degree in finance and marketing at Florida Atlantic University. He later earned an MBA and graduated with top honors from the University of Tampa, while working full-time in the pharmaceutical industry. “You can learn as much as you want through theory and books, and having an MBA is great, but you have to have the ability and the drive to do it in the field. I’m in the field every day. I do a lot of commercial service myself, as well as 50 percent of the sales. You have to be able to perform and work hard. We work very hard and we take pride in our work.

“We have plans to expand into the plumbing industry in the future, providing our customers with all aspects of service plumbing. A lot of our installers are already licensed plumbers in the state of Florida, so it should be an easy transition. We have over 100,000 customers and we’re giving away a lot plumbing business. I don’t like to give away business.

“We’re also planning to open two more locations, expanding into growth areas where there is a lot of new construction: one north and one south. They’re building a lot of high-end homes, with all that stone, granite, marble and tile. Our water, as hard as it is, just etches and destroys everything, including appliances and fixtures. Water softening has almost become a necessity. And every single system is built to order based on the needs of our customers. This gives us the capability to keep up with the latest technological advances in our industry and adapt them into our product offerings very quickly. I love the challenges we face every single day in this industry.”

Water Treatment Solutions with a Splash of Inspiration

Sunday, January 15th, 2017

jan2017_ei_facility-picBy Donna Kreutz

Water-Right is a thriving family business that grew from the garage of a one-bedroom home into a company that holds numerous patents for innovative solutions to water treatment problems and serves customers worldwide. The founding father and three sons create an inquisitive and inventive work environment where “visionary thinking and bold action happen daily.”

“We work hard and we play hard,” said eldest son Kurt Gruett, President of Water-Right, Vice President of its subsidiary, Mineral-Right and company spokesman. “We’re always looking for new and better ways to treat water. It’s built into the culture of the company. It’s in our DNA, if you will. And it’s not only family; there have been great ideas from employees. We’re all a bunch of MacGyvers. We like to play with things. There is always a better or a new way to do something. That leads to some pretty cool innovations and makes it fun.”
jan2017_ei-info-box-and-mug

Glenn Gruett started building water softeners in Appleton, WI in 1961 and in 1963, officially founded Water-Right with the introduction of its first proprietary, automatic control valve for use in problem water. He began selling to wholesalers four years later. As the company progressed, so did its products, size and innovations. Early on, Glenn recalls, “the first big expenditure I ever made was a 310 Cessna. I made the whole circuit to five distributors in a week, which would have taken me three weeks to do without the airplane. The call letters were Whiskey Romeo, for Water-Right.”

“Growing up, we were never given an allowance. We were given the opportunity to work,” Kurt said. “We saw the passion in my father, which inspired us to take up the torch and carry that passion along.” As a result, Water-Right is one of the larger family-owned, independent original equipment manufacturers in the nation. Kurt’s brother Guy is Vice President at both Water-Right and Mineral-Right. Greg is a Vice President of Water-Right and also a Vice President of Mineral-Right. Water-Right Group’s products and brands focus on residential, commercial and industrial water softening, filtration and drinking water systems. “We cover all of the United States and distribute into Canada, Central America and Europe,” Kurt said.

“Over the years, I’ve done just about everything within Water-Right,” Kurt said. “I started off in the assembly division in high school, making units. Following that, I went into sales. I’ve experienced all different areas of the company. Back then, there really wasn’t a place to learn the water business. We learned from my father and built upon his experiences.

Innovation and integrity

The company’s mission is “to passionately provide and create innovative water treatment solutions with a splash of inspiration.” Its vision is “to deliver innovative water solutions honestly, ethically and enthusiastically through education, teamwork and engaging customer support.”
Glenn, now CEO of the Water-Right Group, said: “All my life I wanted to find good people in the industry. If you have good people to work with, you’ll build a successful company.” Kurt added, “As our company grows, we value the importance of finding and holding onto great employees, as well as giving them the resources they need to succeed at Water-Right. Water Right is not just about the immediate family. We have a great management team in place throughout all the companies that has allowed the exponential growth the Water Right Group has experienced.

“A challenge for our industry has always been education. It is our responsibility to educate consumers regarding water quality and provide solutions for them. Water-Right recognized that challenge early on and adopted a philosophy of educating versus selling. If you take an education approach, sales will come naturally.

“We do a lot of schooling for our dealers. We provide educational opportunities through Water-Right Water School, offering professional training and education for dealers, well drillers and plumbers. We bring in 60 to 70 at a time to Appleton, sit them down for three days and teach about water and water treatment. Dad always does the first three or four hours. That’s what he loves to do. We get all different kinds of water people; some are experienced and others are newbies. We mix them all together. Water is so different regionally, and so is the way it can be treated. There are so many different issues with so many different customers and that makes it interesting. That’s why our schools are a lot of fun. Everybody learns from everybody. We learn just as much from our dealers as our dealers do from us.”

Company milestones

In 1985, Water-Right formed its first subsidiary, Mineral-Right, by purchasing a zeolite manufacturing facility once owned by Culligan and relocating to Philipsburg, KS. “This is the only company in the world that manufactures engineered Crystal-Right zeolite for the water treatment industry. In one pass, Crystal-Right removes hardness, iron and manganese, while raising the pH levels of acidic water and reducing ammonia,” Kurt said. “It does a very good job on well waters.” That same year, the company established Clean Water Testing, a state-certified independent laboratory for water and soil testing. “We can detect the presence of various contaminants, including all metals, bacteria and volatile organic chemicals. By the late 1990s, we began to experiment with chlorine generation, which led to the development of the Sanitizer Controller. This and the development of the Chlorine Generator combined with the zeolite really gave us something different to offer the industry.

“In 2008, we introduced our Evolve line, allowing us to enter the professional dealer market. Until that point, the company’s focus was on wholesale and plumbing trades. Evolve offers zeolite water conditioners, water softeners, whole-home water filtration, drinking water systems and specialty products. In 2010, we had the opportunity to purchase WaterCare, moving it to our corporate headquarters in Appleton. We then combined our Evolve and WaterCare dealer groups into a larger dealer network where we could provide more programs and resources. In 2013, we acquired and transitioned CustomCare Water Technologies, allowing us to add a commercial and industrial manufactured line to the Water-Right Group. CustomCare is specified by professional engineers and is sold through water treatment dealers, manufacturers/representatives and mechanical contractors throughout the United States.

“In 2016, we released the newly designed Water-Right ONE Cartridge Filter Tank for our residential customers. We also released three new features for our dealers: the Ozone Generator Kit, Salt Monitor and Remote Flow Meter. The Ozone Generator Kit uses ozone technology, one of the most powerful sterilants in the world, to clean filters without the use of chemicals or harmful byproducts. Its ‘plug-and-play’ simplicity makes for a simple, clean installation. Our Salt Monitor features a patented product design that works by taking a conductivity reading of the brine during the water softener’s regeneration cycle. If the reading is low, an audible and visual alarm is triggered, notifying the homeowner that additional salt is required. The Water-Right Remote Flow Meter gives the user the ability to record and monitor a second stream of water. It’s ideal for tracking irrigation water usage, reclaimed water, gray water or any other application where the user may want to record a second fluid usage.

“Water treatment has been a very good family business, very good to the Gruett family and our employees. Keeping water clean and safe is an increasingly difficult challenge. We continue to look for better and more efficient ways to treat water. Water is such a precious resource. It’s important to us as a company to not only create the right water for the lives of our customers, but to improve the conservation of water for a better world and future.”

Tapping into the ECHO Database

Sunday, January 15th, 2017

By Hubert Colas, PhD

Community water systems are defined as providing water to the same population year-round, which are effectively municipal-residential systems. This is different than the two other US EPA-defined classifications: non-transient non-community water systems and transient non-community water systems, which represent locations such as schools, office buildings, hospitals and public places like gas stations and campgrounds. US EPA requires all facilities that fall under its regulation to report violations. This includes drinking water, air emissions, surface water discharges and hazardous waste. All of the information is compiled into the agency’s Enforcement and Compliance History Online (ECHO) database. As a result, the ECHO database provides a wealth of data and information on water quality.

With water quality a major issue, data analytics added to a public dashboard can provide valuable insights. Data is becoming the new currency and technology has made it easier to collect and crunch numbers to provide real insight. Water professionals are required to report huge amounts of data but it is not always followed by analysis. Reading the data accurately, however, can deliver valuable insights to help improve water systems and deliver a better quality product.

US EPA created such a water dashboard to make it easy for the public to access the data. It provides charts of drinking water violations. Most of the data displayed is very general but there is an option to export specific subsets of violation data. By digging deeper into the data, water professionals can gain insight into the violations affecting their population. The drinking water dashboard is filtered to display all community water systems in the US and its territories. There is no option in the dashboard to only display data for 50 states but data can be filtered once exported so tribal lands and places like Puerto Rico can be removed. By filtering data, it can be displayed in a user-friendly format that is easy to understand. By creating an infographic (https://www.fluksaqua.com/en/benchmark/drinking-water-quality-violations-in-the-us/), important information on water quality can be accessed and understood by not only water professionals but by customers as well. Water quality affects everyone.

jan2017_colas-bar-chartExporting violation data through the ECHO dashboard

It is relatively straightforward to export fiscal year data from ECHO but additional steps are required for streamlining the information. The data, however, needs to be treated appropriately to provide accurate information. For pinpointing violations, the types of violations need to be identified so they can be exported. In the top right section of the ECHO dashboard, there is a bar chart of violations (see Figure 1). The drop-down menu in this section allows the user to specify whether they would like to explore all the violations, health-based violations, acute health-based violations, monitoring and reporting violations and public notification and other violations.

Health-based violations are threats to public health and acute health-based violations are a subset that are considered especially severe. Monitoring and reporting violations include failures to monitor and report results and public notification violations indicate failures to inform or educate the public about the violations or their drinking water in general. The five contaminants highlighted in Figure 1 are arsenic, nitrates, radionuclides, coliforms and DBPs. The chart is focused on only maximum contaminant level (MCL) violations because these are considered health-based violations. MCL violations indicate that a contaminant was present in the distribution system above legally required maximum values.

Once the health-based violations type is selected in the violations section, a table of the data can be accessed by clicking on a bar in the chart. Each bar corresponds to a fiscal year. (US EPA’s fiscal year runs from October 1 to September 30.) Selecting the fiscal year bar links to a new table. Two additional columns need to be added to this table to make data processing more straightforward. One of these columns is also essential in tying date data to the violations. Data can be added to the table by selecting the Analyze feature, which is accessed using the link at the bottom of the table.

It is important to note that although there is a folder containing return to compliance information (FS05), the data that can be exported here are not as complete as the detailed facility report data. Detailed facility reports are comprehensive web pages for each system in the ECHO database. These reports include detailed violation information, such as violation dates. Since there is no option to export dates when violations occurred, the facility reports must be scraped in order to achieve accurate results. Before processing, the data must be trimmed to 50 states so it can be used in the infographic format.

Once the table has been modified, the data can be exported. Some of the modifications in Figure 1 included a) removing tribal lands and territories, b) removing entries outside of the fiscal year and c) removing the rows of violations other than the 10 MCL violations for the five contaminants considered in the infographic. Usually, a CSV file is recommended because it removes any merged cells and other formatting which can increase file size and slow down processing times. The exported file must be opened and saved in an Excel format file.

Processing violation counts and population affected

With the exported data modified to include only violations of interests in locations of interest, several processing steps are applied to convert data into a table of violations in each state and a table of population affected in each state. The total violation count is created by simply counting the occurrences of the violations. Population affected is determined by using the population-served metric in each system, which identifies the number of people who access the utility for drinking water. The total population served by a system with a violation is determined and then divided against the total number of people served by water systems in the state. A list of active community water systems in the US can be exported from the ECHO dashboard and the total population served in each state can be determined from this data set

Determining violation dates and length

The ECHO dashboard does not export compliance period dates for violations. Compliance period dates describe the date range in which the violation occurred and are required for determining duration. While the dashboard does not export date data, dates are available in detailed facility reports in the database.
Detailed facility reports list all the violations for every facility regulated by US EPA, including drinking water systems. Each web page has a consistent structure and any facility report can be accessed by modifying the system ID at the end of the URL. While the facility reports can be scraped for data, the ECHO database is not designed for large-scale data transfers or robotic queries; the agency can disable users that initiate robotic, programmed queries. When extracting data from the facility reports, these guidelines need to be respected

Processing duration data

Once the information is acquired from the detailed facility reports, the data can be compiled into a table of average violation durations in each state. The violations exported from the ECHO dashboard are correlated against the facility reports based on System ID and Violation ID. Once a violation is matched to a facility report violation, compliance period begin dates, compliance period end dates and return to compliance dates (if available) can be assigned to each violation.

The duration of a violation is then determined in two ways:

  1. The first method is applied when a violation has a known resolved date. In these cases, the duration is the length of time between the violation occurring and the violation being resolved. The date a violation occurs is defined as the last day of the violation’s compliance period. In some cases, violations are resolved within their compliance period. When this happens, violations are classified as having a duration of zero days. In some cases, compliance period data cannot be determined. The duration cannot be defined and these violations are excluded from the average calculations.
  2. The second method is applied when a violation has an unknown resolved date. In these cases, the duration is the length of time between when the violation occurred and the final date of the fiscal year. In some cases, the violation occurred on the final day of the year. When this happens, violations are classified as having a duration of zero days. In other cases, the compliance period end date extends beyond the final day of the year. The duration cannot be defined and these violations are excluded from the average calculations.
    The average duration in each state is calculated as the total number of days with unresolved violations divided by the number of applicable violations. An NA entry for average duration indicates that a state had one violation and the compliance period end day extended beyond the final day of the year.

Conclusion

The ECHO database is comprised of a wealth of information but collecting data is only useful when it is analyzed so water professionals can identify areas of improvement. Water quality affects the entire population; creating accessible information to display the achievements of the professionals responsible for the system is of paramount importance.

About the author

Hubert Colas, Eng, PhD, is President of the Americas at FluksAqua, online community created by a dedicated group of water and wastewater operators for their peers) since its inception in January 2015. Prior to that, over a 21-year span, he held multiple positions at BPR (now a Tetra Tech division), including President and GM of BPR CSO from 2004 to 2013, as well as a board member. Colas initiated and coordinated the R&D project that led to the development of BPR CSO’s state-of-the-art, real-time control technology applied to wastewater systems. With three decades of experience in water management, hydrology, hydraulics and real-time control of wastewater systems, he has acted as Project Director on many projects in Canada, the US and in Europe. Colas has presided over the Work Group on Real Time Control of Urban Drainage Systems of the Joint IAHR/IWA Committee on Urban Drainage, was a Water Environment Federation delegate for Réseau Environnement, and chaired the Canadian Junior Water Prize.

Introduction to Membrane Separations

Sunday, January 15th, 2017

By Greg Reyneke, MWS

In the water quality improvement industry, membranes are defined as physical barriers that separate solutions and allow passage of waterborne contaminants within a certain range of size, molecular mass, or even charge polarity strength. When driving pressure is applied and, depending on the material, pore size and electrical charge of the membrane, certain contaminants will be selectively rejected or concentrated by the membrane, while water and unrejected contaminants will pass through as a purified permeate stream. This is the essence of membrane separation. Membrane separation technology is an invaluable resource for residential, commercial and industrial water treatment applications.

Flow configuration

Separation membranes are typically operated in dead-end or cross-flow configuration. In dead-end configuration, the rejected contaminants concentrate into the influent stream and eventually accumulate against the surface and pores of the membrane. Naturally, the concentrated contaminants will inevitably clog the membrane pores entirely, so this process is reserved for applications where the cost/inconvenience of replacing fouled membrane sheets is less important than losing any of the raw fluid or where the engineered process flow design specifically calls for it. A growing segment of dead-end configuration is backwashable tubular or hollow-fiber construction, which is significantly less sensitive to fouling than membrane sheets. Look for increasing market penetration of this technology as the manufacture of these tubes becomes more reliable and cost-effective. In cross-flow filtration, the membrane geometry is designed for contaminants to be scrubbed away from the membrane surface when the concentrated discharge stream is passed to drain or a secondary process. Leveraging the principles of Fick’s laws of diffusion, designers can manipulate macromolecule concentration molecules at the membrane surface as a function of the velocity of fluid that is flowing parallel to it.

Membrane materials and element construction

Crossflow technology is cost-effective and practical due to durable organic polymeric materials. Those who have been around the industry for a few years will remember cellulose triacetate (CTA) membranes that were once ubiquitous. A game-changer popularized in the mid-1990s was thin film composite (TFC), which lowered total cost of ownership and increased flux at lower driving pressures. Composite membranes can be made from a number of materials, such as polyethersulfone (PES), polysulfone (PSU), polyphenylsulfone (PPSU), polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), polyvinyldene fluoride (PVDF) and even polypropylene (PP). The vast majority of installations these days utilize composite membranes, while other materials (such as ceramics made from silica, aluminum, titanium and others) are only used where pH, temperature, abrasiveness, cleaning chemistry or other operational parameters prohibit the use of polymers.

Polymeric membranes can be manufactured symmetrically or asymmetrically, but that’s a discussion that is outside the scope of this article. Contrary to popular belief, there are many ways to build a cross-flow membrane, including type of polymer, length of membrane leaves, membrane support configuration and membrane density. These configuration options are significant in mission-critical operations and also important when selecting regular water-filtration membranes on which you might stake your reputation. Today’s mainstream membrane separation technologies can be separated into four categories of separation by relative contaminant exclusion size:
Osmosis and Reverse Osmosis

Reverse osmosis (RO). Sometimes called hyperfiltration, reverse osmosis is the finest form of filtration used today. The membrane pores are small enough to enable the reversal of osmotic pressure through ionic diffusion when sufficient external energy (pumping pressure) is applied. This reversal of osmotic pressure actually drives pure water away from molecular contaminants and enables processes like seawater desalination, where sodium ions are physically removed from water, greening the desert and bringing clean, safe drinking water to places where it was previously impractical. RO is also used industrially in many innovative applications, such as concentrating fruit juice and whey protein as well as being used for wastewater sludge dewatering. While most dealers and end-users know about RO separation technology, there are other membrane separation technologies one needs to know about.

Nanofiltration (NF). Developed as an extension of RO, NF functions according to the same principles of ionic diffusion as RO, but with a pore-size configuration and slight surface charge that allows passage of all contaminants except divalent and larger ions. Monovalent ions (such as sodium and potassium) pass right through an NF membrane, allowing it to be used as a highly effective, salt-free softening technology without the complications of RO. NF is also highly effective at addressing semi-volatile organics (such as pesticides) and removing color from water.

Ultrafiltration (UF). Ultrafiltration is a true physical exclusion process and doesn’t rely on osmotic principles. UF membranes are categorized by their molecular cut-off rating (MWCO). The typical range of MWCOs for UF is from 1,000 to 1,000,000 Dalton which correlates to approximately 0.005 – 0.1 micron (µm). UF is extremely effective in removing suspended solids, colloids, bacteria, virus, cysts and high molecular weight organics like tannins. UF membranes are operated in dead-end configuration, occasional flush (forward flush and/or backflush), or crossflow configuration. Membrane configuration can vary between manufacturers, but the hollow-fiber type is the most commonly used and is cast into small-diameter tubes or straws. Thousands of these straws are bundled together and the ends are bonded/potted into an epoxy bulkhead. The bundles are then sealed into a housing, which is usually PVC or stainless steel. The sealed potting creates a separate, sealed space that isolates access to the inside of the fibers from the outside. This membrane and housing combination is called a module. A number of UF membrane assemblies on the market are BioVir-certified for log reduction of pathogens in drinking water (such as bacteria and viruses), enabling dealers to provide safe drinking water more cost-effectively and efficiently than ever before.

Microfiltration (MF). Microfiltration technology is deployed in both cross-filtration, spiral-wound, occasional flush hollow-fiber (forward flush and/or backflush) and dead-end plate and frame configurations to great success, depending on the nature of the application. This membrane technology typically has an exclusion size of 0.2-1 µm and is very well suited for the removal of particulates, turbidity, suspended solids and certain pathogens, such as Cryptosporidium and Giardia. MF has an established industrial track-record for sterile clarification of wine and beer, whey concentration and fruit-juice sterilization. In the wastewater treatment field, microfiltration is invaluable for dewatering flocculant sludge and economically lowering BOD and COD in discharge streams. Microfiltration is also extremely effective in protecting other downstream membrane separators.
jan2017_reyneke-table

It is very important to select the appropriate pretreatment for any membrane separation process being used. Composite polymeric membranes are sensitive to oxidative damage, so special care should be taken to ensure that chlorine, ozone and other oxidative disinfectants are not present in the water being processed. Careful consideration should also be given to macro particles and organic/inorganic contaminants in the water stream that could affect proper membrane function. As a good general rule, the smaller the pore size, the greater amount of physical pretreatment required to ensure long run times and economic operation.

Regardless of the membrane pore size, operational fouling is almost inevitable, even with pretreatment. The types and amounts of fouling are dependent on many different factors, such as feed-water chemistry, membrane type, membrane materials and operational process. The most common types of membrane fouling are scale precipitation and biofouling. Fouling causes a decrease in flux, which in turn requires greater pressure against the membrane to produce a satisfactory permeate flowrate. As fouling worsens, the increased pressure (energy) requirement will cause the operating cost to increase significantly and possibly even blind the membrane completely, leading to significant damage and operational failure.
jan2017_reyneke-glossary

Some well-meaning but misinformed people accuse membrane separation systems of being wasteful, since water is used to clean the membrane(s) during operation. I disagree with the negative description of drain concentrate water as wasted water, since it really is not. Saying that a membrane separator wastes water is akin to saying that a tree dropping its unpicked fruit is wasteful. The fruit returns nutrients to the earth and feeds the tree, which then grows more fruit. Discharge water from a membrane separation system is also not lost forever; it will return through the building’s drainage system to a municipal plant or back to the earth in an off-grid application or can be re-purposed in-process by design. We can’t ignore the opportunity cost of the water though, since it has to be cleaned, stored, treated, pressurized and distributed before it enters the membrane separator.

Since discharge from a potable water membrane separator is also sanitary potable water (this is obviously not considered wastewater as it is never in contact with soils, dirt or biological contaminants; it is merely concentrated clean water), the opportunity cost of the discharge can be recovered through innovative reuse techniques such as graywater recovery, blending with harvested rainwater, re-purposing in secondary process or used as landscape irrigation.

Conclusion

Membrane separation systems are an environmentally friendly technology and another valuable tool in lowering the overall environmental impact of our projects. It is critically important to either secure the necessary education to ensure proper system selection, design and deployment or work with vendors who can be relied upon to help, before getting into trouble by making uninformed decisions. WQA’s Modular Education Program (MEP) offers a great starting point for learning more about RO and other membrane separation technologies.

Reyneke_Greg_mugAbout the author

Greg Reyneke, Managing Director at Red Fox Advisors, has two decades of experience in the management and growth of water treatment dealerships. His expertise spans the full gamut of residential, commercial and industrial applications, including wastewater treatment. In addition, Reyneke also consults on water conservation and reuse methods, including rainwater harvesting, aquatic ecosystems, greywater reuse and water-efficient design. He is a member of the WC&P Technical Review Committee and currently serves on the PWQA Board of Directors, chairing the Technical and Education Committee. You can follow him on his blog at www.gregknowswater.com

NWRI graduate Fellows announced

Sunday, January 15th, 2017

The National Water Research Institute has named five Graduate Fellows who have been awarded $10,000 (USD) to support their research projects related to developing and enhancing water supplies. Natalie Hull is a second-year doctoral student at University of Colorado-Boulder, working on Mechanisms and Sustainability of Wavelength-Tailored Ultraviolet Drinking Water Disinfection for Small Systems. Mojtaba Azadi Aghdam is a first-year doctoral student pursuing a degree in environmental engineering at the University of Arizona. His research, A Novel Brine Precipitation with the Aim of Higher Water Recovery, aims to increase the clean water recovery rate from membranes using brine precipitation. Second-year doctoral student (University of Wisconsin-Madison) Devon Manley’s research project, Study of the Viability of Chlorine Photolysis as an Advanced Oxidation Process in Water Treatment Systems, aims to determine the optimum treatment conditions (i.e., pH, irradiation wavelength and chlorine concentration) for contaminant removal by chlorine photolysis. Fifth-year doctoral student (University of Colorado-Boulder) Kyle Shimabuku’s dissertation, Biochar Sorbents for the Control of Organic Contaminants: Understanding Biochar Structure and Water Quality on Sorption Behavior, focuses on developing sustainable and low-cost adsorbents for stormwater and wastewater treatment and reuse. Jenna Krichling is pursuing her Master’s Degree in environmental health at San Diego State University. Her research project, Non-Targeted Analysis for Discovery of Chemicals of Emerging Concerns in Treated Water for Drinking and Source Investigation, will help ensure wastewater introduced into bodies of water is safe to later be reclaimed and treated for human consumption. The NWRI Fellowship program is underwritten by the Joan Irvine Smith & Athalie R. Clarke Foundation, community partners and NWRI Corporate Associates.

Graduate students honored by AMTA

Sunday, January 15th, 2017

The American Membrane Technology Association (AMTA) of Stuart, FL and the Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation) of Denver, CO announced the 2016 AMTA-Reclamation Fellowships for Membrane Technology have been awarded to graduate students Masoud Aghajani of the University of Colorado, Boulder; Kasia Grzebyk of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Carlyn Higgins of the University of Central Florida and Christopher Morrow of University of Southern California at Los Angeles. Aghajani, a second-year doctoral student, is studying fabrication and characterization of patterned thin-film composite membranes with well-controlled surface patterns to reduce concentration polarization, fouling and scaling. Third-year doctoral student Grzebk is working on tailoring thin-film nanocomposite (TFN) membranes for water reuse. Higgins, a Master Student, is working on modeling of mass-transfer and endocrine-disrupting compound removal in a nanofiltration membrane process modified for acid pretreatment conditions. Third-year doctoral student Morrow is studying osmotic-membrane bioreactors coupled to membrane distillation for low-energy potable reuse. The fellowships provide $11,750 each to support graduate student research that pertains to Reclamation’s objectives, as well as AMTA’s mission to solve water supply and quality issues through the widespread application of membrane technology. The research funded is for work that innovates water treatment in membrane-related research and results in the advancement of membrane technologies in the water, wastewater or water reuse industries.

Dyson honored by WWEMA

Sunday, January 15th, 2017

jan2017_dyson_mugWater and Wastewater Equipment Manufacturers Association (WWEMA) Chair Tammy Bernier named John Dyson, Product Channel Manager-AquaPrime at Aqua-Aerobic Systems Inc., recipient of the 2016 James C. Morriss Member Achievement Award at WWEMA’s 108th Annual Meeting last November. Bernier cited Dyson’s outstanding service to the organization throughout the year, including his contributions as a Board Member, Treasurer on the Executive Committee, Chairman of the Legislative & Regulatory Committee and a member of the Investment Committee. Dyson has served on the Board of Directors since 2011. He also represents WWEMA to many outside organizations, most notably as Chair of the Water and Environment Federation (WEF) Manufacturers and Representatives Committee.

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