By Carlos David Mogollón, WC&P Executive Editor

Spotting bad apples before they poison the well
You know the saying: “A few bad apples spoil a good thing…”

Such can be the case at anytime, anywhere, in any industry, we all know. This is why an association that offers professional growth opportunities also acts as a check on those members behaving unethically and serves to uphold the general reputation of like-minded firms is so important.

A couple of issues arose as we were putting to bed our April issue that highlights this point.

The first had to do with a March 1 press release from the Pacific Water Quality Association entitled: “Legitimate Water Treatment Companies Speak Out Against Fraud: How Consumers Can Protect Themselves.” It was in response to bad press following the filing of charges by the Ventura County District Attorney’s Office against a home water treatment company operating without a contractor’s license and using unethical “scare tactic” sales practices. The Los Angeles Times ran an article and several Hispanic TV news programs aired reports on it, giving the entire industry a black eye.

PWQA President Bill Wallace said the two salespeople caught in a sting operation sponsored by the Contractors State License Board (CSLB) were targeting Hispanics with: 1) saying the water would poison children, 2) using precipitation tests and 3) explaining terms in Spanish but presenting contracts in English.

The issue so upset water treatment businesses serving Hispanic communities in Southern California that they banded together to turn it in their favor. They’re led by Fernando Ricci, president of Amber Home Products, a Rancho Cucamonga company that’s been in the area for 10 years and sells softeners, ROs and other products through 11 dealers in 10 states.

“My business has gone down 50 percent in some areas,” Ricci said. “A lawsuit is threatened in Burbank, Calif. Everyone is being sued of course… so we thought it would be a good idea to come up with some tips for consumers when looking for reputable businesses. We’re looking for people to connect with on this.”

The tip sheet, which includes toll free numbers for the CLSB and PWQA, is available from the PWQA—(916) 255-3900.

“Again, there may be a few bad apples out there, as in any industry,” Wallace said, “but we just wanted to make sure consumers knew about PWQA and WQA and that members of these organizations have a code of ethics.”

The second issue involved a letter written by the Arizona WQA petitioning the WQA to take action against “no salt, no chemical” member companies operating in the Phoenix and Tucson areas that profess to soften water or make health claims. Several AWQA members threatened to leave the WQA if nothing was done. After a subsequent phone conversation with WQA executive director Peter Censky, two members agreed to file formal complaints to the national association for advertising review.

Three other quick points this month:

  • While it’s still not clear as of this writing when the USEPA will release its final arsenic rule (originally due December 1999), indications are the MCL will likely be proposed at 5 ppb, with comments solicited for an MCL of 3 ppb and 10 pbb “if you read the American Water Works Association’s newsletters,” said USEPA’s Tom Sorg. The current standard is 50 ppb.
  • NSF International’s Bruce Bartley said coagulation and adsorptive media seem to be the hot selection for treating arsenic in the ETV program, as work starts this spring with 3-to-5 vendors with ion specific media and coagulants.
  • And this item from PMEngineer Magazine’s February issue, a funny story. A middle school student for his science fair project tried to show how susceptible we are to alarmist “junk” science fomenting fear of everything in our environment. Citing drawbacks of “dihydrogen monoxide” (a major component of acid rain, cause of severe burns in its gaseous state, contributor to erosion, etc.) he got 43 of 50 people to sign a petition for stricter government control or its elimination. Only one knew that it was water. The title of his project, which won first prize: “How Gullible Are We?”
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