By Carlos David Mogollón, WC&P Executive Editor
Whether it’s “down on the bayou,” the Barbary Coast, Cajun Country, the home of Dixieland jazz, Mardi Gras or just the Big Easy—New Orleans has often been portrayed as a woman with many faces.
It’s a lively city with a diverse range of cultural and culinary resources, as well as architectural contrasts meshing the antebellum South with metropolitan skyscrapers.
Nestled between the Gulf of Mexico, Mississippi River and Lake Pontchart-rain, there’s also a lot of water.
That will be the topic of choice for attendees of the Water Quality Associa-tion’s 28th Annual Convention & Exhibition, which will be hosted March 5-9 at the Morial Convention Center.
Regrouping after Sept. 11
Water Quality Association executive director Peter Censky noted that, since the Mid-Year Leadership Conference was canceled for the first time ever because of terrorist attacks on the United States last fall, there’s a lot of work to do.
While the WQA Board of Governors and Executive Committee have kept up with more pressing matters, Censky said many issues that require the various committees’ attention remain to be discussed from the event scheduled for Sedona, Ariz., a week after the attacks.
Margit Fotre, membership services and public affairs director, agreed. “You can do a lot of things over the phone, particularly with conference calls, these days—not to mention via email,” Fotre said. “But it’s just not the same as being face to face.”
Technical director Joe Harrison said there’s a lot of planning involved for the convention as well as the NSF/WHO HPC Conference—prompted by WQA’s involvement—in Geneva in April.
“We have 58 abstracts and speakers presenting papers and 24 of those will be selected with the rest reserved for poster sessions,” Harrison said.
At the convention, he sees an effort to develop a new business plan for the association as ranking high in importance, led by incoming 2002-03 WQA president, Bob Ruhstorfer, also president of RainSoft Division of Aquion Partners L.P.
Budgets are also being closely watched because of the recession.
“We were worried about finances being down,” Harrison said, “but the dues are coming in fine right now. The Gold Seal program has brought in a lot more money than ever before through laboratory services. We’re probably at three times the income we were two years ago.”
There are also regulatory issues with which to contend. California has asked Harrison to form an industry advisory group to provide input into the Department of Health Services (DHS) Water Treatment Device Certification Program. But WQA expressed concern—in a letter dated Dec. 26—with the way that program has redefined issues such as chlorine as a health vs. aesthetic claim and limiting use of test data to two years. The first, through changes in product literature requirements, seems to negate a compromise achieved earlier last year. The second is problematic for transferring product performance data from OEMs to assemblers using their components as standards only require updated data every five years.
“What WQA is challenging overall in all these issues is how do these things come to be when there seems to be no communication between DHS and the major stakeholders before they’re implemented,” said NSF International’s Tom Bruursema, who was asked to be on the advisory group and was involved in a conference call on the topic in early January. “The advisory group is intended to improve that.”
Also, the industry continues to look at ways to meet tougher brine efficiency guidelines in California agreed to as part of compromise legislation in 1999 to avoid reinstating softener bans. Part of this effort involves looking at how brine saturation levels are determined in testing to meet the ANSI/NSF 44 softener standard.
“Now, it requires us to do three tests and allow 16 hours between tests to let the salt dissolve in the brine,” Harrison said. “If we can just start with dissolved salt, it will save us testing time… and expense. It may also take into account other conditions that might affect that, such as whether the tank has a plate that serves as a salt platform.”
The septic tank discharge study and the pressure drop/flow rate study are also back on track, he added. Updates will be available at the convention.
Workshops and more
Mark Rowzee, WQA’s education director, is looking forward to more than 70 educational seminars divided into color-coded “blocks” for easy tracking by attendees: Applications & Treatment Technologies, Basics of Water Treatment, Bioterrorism, Bottled Water, Commercial & Industrial Water Treatment, Contaminants, DWTU Standards & Performance, and the Future of Municipal Treatment.
In particular, Rowzee pointed to arsenic, radon, bioterrorism and bottled water as key topics, noting that arsenic, municipalities, small systems and the point-of-use/point-of-entry (POU/POE) industry are more closely tied than ever.
“I would say definitely that there’s somewhat of the typical highlight on arsenic,” he said, “since it’s still only recently that it was signed and it’s one of the inroads our industry can assist on to provide safe water for municipal customers.”
Speakers include Ed Means, a consultant with McGuire Environmental, on water utility trends and their implications for POU/POE; Bob Raucher, of Stratus Consulting, discussing the AWWARF treatment study on conventional and unconventional approaches for provision of water; Greg Gilles, of Apyron, on the case for a centrally managed POU option for small systems; Gary Hatch, of USFilter/Culligan, on granular ferric hydroxide as an option for arsenic treatment; and Mike Norton, of HDR Engineering, on iron-assisted coagulation and microfiltration for arsenic removal.
Dr. Stan Rydell, USEPA Region I, and David Hill, U.S. Radon Systems, will discuss radon. As for bioterrorism, a few sessions are planned, including one with W. Dickinson Burrows, a civilian with the U.S. Army Center for Health Promotion and Preventive Medicine at the Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md. And there’s a block devoted to bottled water that includes International Bottled Water Association technical director Bob Hirst.
“In many cases, there’s already significant overlap between our members and the bottled water business,” Rowzee said. “A lot of them have it on the side. And many are looking to branch out their businesses just because of changing times…”
Roundtable discussions include topics such as “Ask a Microbiologist,” “Troubleshooting Ion Exchange,” “Septic Tank Issues,” “Copper Pipe Corrosion,” “Blue-Green Algae” and “MTBE.”
Rowzee said the “long overdue, revamped” Certified Installer exam also will be available, and the Water Treatment Fundamentals exam has been overhauled cosmetically and in terms of content for a more user-friendly update.
Passing the gavel
Also in New Orleans, WQA president C.R. Hall, an independent Culligan dealer with dealerships in Kansas, Missouri and Ohio, will hand off the title to Aquion/Rainsoft’s Ruhstorfer.
Hall said he sees bioterrorism and state/regional association support as key topics.
“Bioterrorism is something that everybody is walking real softly on as far as trying not to use it as a scare tactic to sell product,” Hall said. “But we’re getting asked a lot by our customers on whether our products can help protect them in case the unthinkable happens.
“On the state and regional issues, we’re going to help when we’re asked and will continue to add structure to our plan on how to help them at the annual meeting as we get input from those involved with the state associations. We need each other.”
Strong chapters, he added, are integral to a strong national association. And a strong national association can provide more influence on state issues that require careful management such as septic tank, plumbing code and environmental concerns.
Another issue on the radar screen, Ruhstorfer said, is how WQA continues to respond to change in the industry: “That’s been an ongoing issue in how the industry has consolidated and its distribution channels changed. In several years, we’ve brought into our organization various sections and a variety of members—the Amways, Britas and Purs (as well as commercial/industrial players). When you go back 20 or 30 years, WQA then was primarily a water softener dealer organization. We’re a much different organization today. Our demographics have changed as the marketplace’s demographics have changed.”
Consolidation isn’t limited to manufacturers and suppliers either, he added. It includes the creation in recent years of superdealerships, where a dealer buys out smaller ones when “mom and pop” are ready to retire and operates multiple locations. Through the World Assembly Division, it’s also a broader industry with more global reach than ever before. He added, “We’ve had a fair amount of success keeping up with those changes and being a voice of reason in a lot of countries to get good science and information into the hands of regulators that set standards,” not to mention the U.S. pavilions sponsored by the WQA in Europe, Asia, Mexico and South America.
Still, all these factors require a hard look today at the organizational structure of the association to best position it for the future, Ruhstorfer said. He expects this to be a key topic at many meetings in New Orleans.
Regardless of the reasons for you attending the WQA convention (educational seminars, technical meetings, trade show), the event promises—once again—to offer stimulating discussion and debate on the future of POU/POE water treatment as well as the best showcase for the industry’s wares in the world.