By Carlos David Mongollón

The Impression That I Get and Virtual Awareness
Reading the future is tricky. My interpretation is like the manner Alan Greenspan reads the economy. A hint here, a suggestion there, a link from here to there and a few facts in between. Of course, that’s an oversimplification, but you get the point. With resin and membrane suppliers raising rates the past several months because of higher fuel prices, though, it’s clear margins will be tighter in 2001.

Here’s a couple other facts:
Fact 1: Calgon Carbon Corp. patents UV for controlling Cryptosporidium.
Fact 2: Aquion Partners/RainSoft buys controls business of Erie Manufacturing.

On the first, it seems granting a U.S. patent to Calgon Carbon has raised a few eyebrows about whether the patent is too broad and does a disservice to others whose research was integral to acknowledgment of UV’s effectiveness at inactivating waterborne pathogens such as Crypto.

Rip Rice, ozone guru and editor of the International Ultraviolet Association newsletter, said a lot of emails are flying on the topic and whether royalties will now have to be paid to Calgon Carbon. Word he gets is the patent is likely to be challenged (which was confirmed by others WC&P spoke with), but not many want to talk about it. This includes IUVA president Jim Malley, a University of New Hampshire professor, who said the association had no comment at the time.

Some didn’t feel the patent would make much difference. Martin Bracken, intellectual property specialist for Trojan Technologies, said: “A lot of people who’ve been in the UV business for a while have the perspective we can keep doing what we’ve all been doing all along… It’s called the law of inherency… We feel that this does not stop us from selling our reactors.”

Calgon Carbon officials said they felt its work showing UV effective at inactivating Crypto at lower intensities than previously thought was a breakthrough and the U.S. Patent Office agreed. But, the company wants UV use to grow broadly to benefit all participants in the industry. This is fairly important considering a seeming shift from ozone in favor of UV to avoid potential hazards of disinfection by-products (DBPs) of increasing concern to the USEPA and public health officials.

Meanwhile, Aquion’s acquisition of Erie Manufacturing’s water treatment controls business—while it salvages a floundering player in the market and solidifies RainSoft’s access to technology—seems to be the latest in a series of moves that may eventually put the pinch on independent distributors, assemblers and dealers. Others include Sta-Rite’s purchase of tank maker Park International and Marmon’s acquisition of Alamo Water Refiners. WQA Ion Exchange Committee chairman C.F. “Chubb” Michaud put it in the context of a question: “What happens when your supplier becomes your competitor or your competitor’s supplier?” On the other hand there’s no denying the move is good for Aquion, RainSoft and Erie. Also good is that Clack Corp. recently introduced a softener valve for independent private label only.

By the way, visit our website this month——and you’ll see a revamped Internet presence providing better access to data, archives and new features such as an “Online Tradeshow” and “Executive Q&A” exclusive to the online version of the magazine. More positive changes will be phased in over several months. Keep an “ion” us.


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