By Karen R. Smith, WC&P Executive Editor

Just an ordinary day, really. Nothing unique about it. When the first person telephoned asking about the corrosive nature of softened water, we didn’t take note; seemed to simply be an individual seeking clarification of terms and an explanation of the differences between soft water and softened water. Happens from time to time here, usually as a result of someone finding our name and phone number during a search of the Internet or their local library for information about water treatment.

Within a couple of hours, it became apparent the day was anything but ordinary, as the phones got increasingly busy. Each caller was a frazzled consumer eager to find someone who could answer questions about soft water, softened water and the potential of each for pipe corrosion and ill health.

As we realized there was something afoot, I initially assumed it was fallout from the Baltimore symposium on calcium and magnesium (many who had attended that conference spoke of class action lawsuits already in the making). But a few questions to the callers proved that hypothesis incorrect. It was simpler – and more insidious.

The callers, all from the same state, had received a water bill in the mail that morning. The envelope contained an insert – in English and Spanish – that alarmed them enough to reach out in search of clarification. Here’s a copy of it:

Why was this suddenly sent out to residential customers of a regional water authority? Is there actually new restrictive legislation in this area, as implied by the use of the word ‘prohibition’? Was this brought up at a recent legislative session? Town meeting? Water district conference? Who are the local dealers? Are they aware of this development? Who’s on the board of this water entity? What interests are represented? Is this an isolated event, or the first salvo across the bow in what will become an all-out attack on water softeners?

There are far more questions than answers at this point in time, yet two facts are clear:

  • despite the relative calm you might currently be enjoying, this industry can find itself under attack in the wink of an eye (or the opening of an envelope) and
  • you can’t defend your livelihood alone – you need to be a part of the national and local WQAs to succeed

Because this happened in a state with a strong regional WQA, there has been immediate progress in mitigating this action with the goal of preventing future harm. As we go to press, meetings are planned between the water authority and the WQA chapter board to open a dialogue, discover problems and forge solutions together. With similar successful endeavors to our credit in the past, we are taken seriously when we come forward in such situations.

We strive to be part of the solution – rather than be viewed as the root of the problem. As was shown most recently in California, when softeners are banned in a specific town in an agricultural area, there is no drop in salinity/TDS.

In this issue we begin presenting coverage of WHO/ILSI/NSF’s symposium regarding calcium and magnesium in drinking water. Next month we will have additional articles on this very important gathering. As one writer notes, the potential ‘stigma’ cast by this juggernaut can have a huge impact on this industry – combined with random attacks like the billing insert pictured here, the future looks challenging.



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