By WC&P Staff
In an effort to meet the new arsenic Compliance standards set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) has recognized the viability of point of use (POU) devices as a cost-effective alternative for arsenic compliance and removal in small systems. The statewide agency has developed rules for these small systems’ use of POU treatment options and the policy presents a unique opportunity for water treatment dealers to market their products in new avenues.
Under the guidelines, small systems operators can obtain approval from ADEQ to install POU systems in their customers’ homes as an alternative to the design and installation of a centralized, more expensive water treatment facility. Subject to a host of program requirements, such as customer compliance minimums and water waste limits, the directive is the first such initiative explicitly authorizing municipalities to seek private industry solutions for drinking water needs. While the impact of the program will likely not be felt by individual POU/POE water treatment professionals for several years, those working in areas served by small systems are on the cusp of a significant new market opportunity. The U.S. EPA states that 3,500 small systems are not yet in compliance with reduced arsenic rules and 1,400 of these are in the western U.S. states.
The following outline and explanation of the ADEQ’s Arizona POU Compliance Program Guidance is an excerpted version of the department’s advisory rules and regulations. The complete report can be found at http://www.azdeq.gov/environ/water/download/pointofuse.pdf
The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) safe drinking water rules allow public water systems to employ point of use (POU) treatment devices as a means for compliance with drinking water maximum contaminant levels (MCL). This guidance document is designed to assist water systems choosing POU as their means of compliance in structuring a program that will meet ADEQ’s requirements. ADEQ recognizes that POU will be an attractive compliance option for many small water systems. ADEQ supports the use of POU where appropriate, provided the program established by a water system provides the level of public health protection required in the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA).
POU compliance program overview
A POU compliance program differs fundamentally from a centralized treatment compliance program. Under the POU program the water system is required to install a POU device that will treat only the water intended for direct consumption, typically installed at a single tap such as the kitchen sink. Centralized treatment treats all of the water produced by the public water system. Since only a very small percentage of the total water use is for direct consumption, typically 1-3 percent, a POU compliance program can result in significant cost savings for smaller water systems. Arizona Administrative Code (AAC) regulation R18-4-222 governs the use of POU devices in Arizona public drinking water systems. Additionally, federal law 42 U.S.C. 300g-1(b)(4)(E)(ii) contains requirements that must be met by water systems using POU devices as a means of compliance. Any water system choosing to use POU as their means to comply with an established drinking water maximum contaminant level (MCL) will be required to meet all of the requirements of the State regulation and federal law.
Federal law requires that the POU device be owned, controlled, and maintained by the public water system or by a person under contract with the public water system to ensure proper operation and maintenance and compliance with the MCL. Federal law also requires that the POU device be equipped with mechanical warnings to ensure that customers are automatically notified of operational problems and that the device be independently certified as conforming to an American National Standards Institute standard if one exists. Finally a POU device cannot be used to comply with a MCL or treatment technique requirement for a microbial contaminant.
A.A.C. R18-4-222 outlines additional requirements a water system must meet when using a POU compliance program. Specifically, Arizona regulations require the water system to develop and have approved a written monitoring plan, obtain ADEQ approval of the design of the POU device, install a sufficient number of devices to ensure every person served by the system is protected, and that the rights and responsibilities of persons served by the water system convey with title upon sale of property.
POU system requirements
A POU system is considered a complete water treatment device that includes all components needed to connect it to a public water system under a POU compliance program. Additionally, the POU system must be certified by an American National Standards Institute (ANSI) accredited body under one of the National Sanitation Foundation (NSF)/ANSI water treatment unit standards. Currently recognized
ANSI accredited certification organizations are:
II. Water Quality Association (WQA)
III. Underwriters Laboratory (UL)
Currently recognized NSF/ANSI standards are:
I. NSF/ANSI Standard 44
II. NSF/ANSI Standard 53
III. NSF/ANSI Standard 55
IV. NSF/ANSI Standard 58
The water system must provide documentation from the treatment device manufacturer showing the treatment device is certified for the reduction of the specific contaminant(s) that the water system will be controlling. POU manufacturers are aware of this certification requirement and should be able to readily provide this documentation.
Determining if POU will work for your system
When considering POU as a compliance strategy, water systems must fully understand and weigh the obligations that come with implementing such a program. Factors to consider when determining the appropriateness of POU for your water system include:
- the number of service connections on your system
- The type of service connections on your system
— Single family homes
— Office buildings
— Medical offices
— Commercial or industrial
- The cost of central treatment versus POU
- The additional sampling you will be required to conduct and the associated expense of the sampling
- The ability to gain entrance into your customers’ households and businesses
- The maintenance frequency and associated workload
- The record keeping requirements
- The willingness of your customers to accept a POU compliance program
- The ability of the water system to gain authority to make participation in the program a condition of service
- Any liability associated with such a program
A system must also consider that ADEQ will not authorize a system to implement a POU compliance program that does not have a minimum of 75 percent initial water customer participation at the inception of the program. The system must then reach 100 percent water customer participation using the tools outlined in this guidance document and/or as outlined in an order and schedule issued by ADEQ. The establishment of a POU program raises challenging issues for a water system, including increased liability and private property access issues. A water system may be wise to seek legal counsel to determine its best course of action.
The ADEQ program presents a unique opportunity for Arizona water treatment dealers to expand their business, and provides a primer for other states to follow suit. According to Arizona Water Quality Association Executive Director David Perry, the new U.S. EPA regulation on arsenic, along with the ADEQ guidance, means more small systems operators and individual consumers will be taking note of the value of POU treatment technologies. “Because the EPA has built in a number of delays for small systems’ compliance to the new arsenic rules, it will probably be a few years before we see a direct impact from this guidance,” Perry said. “But the ramifications are huge nonetheless. Basically, the State of Arizona has said that POU is an excellent alternative to central water treatment for small systems and that will translate into more opportunities for water dealers statewide.”
Moreover, the decision could be integral to similar guidance in other states around the country, National WQA Technical Director Joseph Harrison said. “It’s an ice breaker. While it may take a few years to see the impact small systems use of POU has in Arizona, there are many other states around the country that have considered this type of guidance where this may have an effect in the near term.”
Now that it’s ‘on paper’ and on record as a viable alternative to central treatment, Harrison said, the POU/POE industry will likely benefit in a host of yet-to-be-seen positive ways.