By Margaret H. Whittaker

Are you interested in getting your plumbing product or drinking water treatment unit certified against an NSF drinking water additives (DWA) or drinking water treatment units (DWTU) standard? Before you sign up with a specific certifier, remember that you have up to five certifiers to choose from, not just one.

This article proposes a ‘bill of rights’ relating to what should be expected from any certifier evaluating products. It is based on NSF-related drinking water additives or drinking water treatment unit standards.

As a client of any certifier, you have the right to be treated fairly, be provided with the most information possible pertaining to the certification process, and to receive your certification in a timely manner. You also have the right to shop amongst the competing certifiers to receive the best prices for testing and toxicological review.

Choosing certifiers
Manufacturers who want to have their plumbing-related product or drinking water treatment unit (DWTU) evaluated, tested and certified under a specific NSF standard such as NSF/ANSI Standard 42, 44, 53, 58, 60, 61, or 62 can choose to take their business to any of five certification organizations (listed in alphabetic order):

  • Canadian Standards Association (CSA)
  • International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials (IAPMO)
  • NSF International
  • Underwriters Laboratories (UL)
  • Water Quality Association (WQA).

At a recent industry event, a client from a barrier material company with numerous Standard 61-certified products remarked that he was not happy with his current certifier. He felt he was a hostage in terms of testing and toxicology review costs and questioned the customer service at the certification organization.

Anyone treated this way by a local grocery store or hardware store would likely take their business elsewhere. However, costs go up and quality of service often goes down in the certification business for DWAs and DWTUs.

In the example above, the manufacturer was hesitant to take his business to another certifier because of the significant investment made to date at a specific certification organization. There was also a fear that his company would be the target of reprisals should he ever decide to return to the original certifier.

That manufacturer did switch his certification listing and took his business to another certifier. He is now selling his NSF Standard 61-certified product at a better price and is receiving better customer treatment. Congratulations to him!

Four steps before certifying
Manufacturers have the ability to keep certification costs down, shorten testing times and speed up the certification process. This can be done by implementing the following four steps:

1. Shop around for certifiers
Before agreeing to have your product line evaluated by a certification organization, obtain a detailed written cost estimate so you can compare prices among certification organizations. Obtain written cost estimates that detail how much each step of the certification process will cost, such as the initial plant audit, various product testing and evaluation costs and listing fees.

Obtain turnaround times in writing to know how fast your product will be sampled, tested and evaluated, as well as when your plant(s) will be audited. If you have numerous products that need to be certified, investigate faster turnaround times or a discount as a new client for multiple products.

2. Read certification policies manual
The previously identified five certification agencies are all accredited to certify against specific NSF International standards by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). All certifiers operate under the same standards and are required to pass detailed audits by ANSI in order to retain their certification.

Accordingly, each of the five certifiers has their own certification policies manual. As a client, you can and should obtain the certifier’s certification policies manual.

By reading the policy manual before starting the certification process, you as the customer will understand what information needs to be provided to the certifier and what they will be testing. If any problems arise during the certification process, you will know your rights and be better equipped to deal with problems.

Know that you do not need to get a product certified by CSA in order to meet the new Canadian CSA B483 Standard. If you plan to sell in to Canada, make sure that the agency is SCC accredited as well. The Standards Council of Canada (SCC) accreditation is required in order to state that the certification is valid in Canada. CSA, NSF International, IAPMO, UL and WQA are all currently accredited by SCC.

3. Become a well-informed manufacturer
There is an old adage that a fool and his money are soon parted. You need to have at least one person in your company that understands the whole DWA/DWTU certification process and what changes are coming down the line.

Follow these steps below.

  • Stay up-to-date by reading water industry publications

You or your staff should regularly read water trade journals like Water Conditioning and Purification (WC&P). These publications have available subscriptions and online versions that you can access through your web search engine.

  • Stay up-to-date by reading publications from certifiers

WQA publishes a free, monthly online NewsFax available through their website at www.wqa.org.

There are free NSF publications that relate specifically to DWAs or DWTUs. Flow magazine, Plumbing E-news, Plumbing Bulletin, the Water Works newsletter and the NSF newsletter for DWTUs, DWTUReMarks, can be found at www.nsf.org/business/newsroom/newsletters.asp#regulatory. Some require automatic email subscriptions, while some can be accessed directly and downloaded from the above website.

  • Read the applicable NSF standard cover to cover

NSF Standards can be purchased from Techstreet at www.techstreet.com

  • NSF Standards are revised constantly

Follow NSF balloting, potential changes to the standard and notices of NSF meetings through the following website: http://standards.nsf.org/home/

  • Send a staff member to a training course at a certification organization

WQA offers a number of educational opportunities and provides educational seminars nationwide, as well as ‘Water-Tech U’ at its yearly convention. It also provides a free online Water Information Library containing technical articles from both industry magazines and the WQA. For more information, see www.wqa.org and go to the Water Information Library link.

NSFs Center for Public Health Education offers courses in NSF Standards 60 and 61, as well as NSF DWTU Standards. For more information and to sign up, contact www.nsf.org/cphe/.

4. Steps before moving
If you are considering moving your product listings from one certifier to another, make sure you have on file complete copies of your plant audit reports and chemical extraction test results. For DWTUs, you will also need performance and structural integrity reports.

If you have lost these documents, you have the right to ask that the certifier provide you with copies of your reports, but note that they may charge you a fee. You do not need to explain why you need copies of these reports.

Contacting DWA/DWTU certifiers
Now that you know your rights, consider shopping around, either for your existing or new product certifications. Listed below are websites for the five certifiers and relevant contact e-mails:

Canadian Standards Association (CSA):
http://www.csa-international.org/product_areas/plumbing_products/drinking_water_products/e-mail contact: certinfo@csa-international.org

The International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials (IAPMO):
http://www.iapmo.org
e-mail contact: donna.estrada@iapmortl.org.

NSF International (NSF):
http://www.nsf.org
e-mail contact: info@nsf.org

Underwriters Laboratories, Inc. (UL): http://www.ul.com/water/prodcert/certification.html
e-mail contact: CustomerService.NBK@us.ul.com

Water Quality Association (WQA):
http://www.wqa.org
e-mail contact: goldseal@mail.wqa.org

One great thing about competition in the DWA/DWTU certification arena is that it forces certification organizations to keep costs down and hustle for your business. Remember, you are the customer!

Although no certifier can ever guarantee certification, you have the right to reasonable prices, technical expertise and fair treatment. If your current certifier is not delivering on these items, consider taking your business elsewhere.

About the author
Dr. Margaret H. Whittaker is Managing Director and Chief Toxicologist of ToxServices LLC. She serves as the director and technical lead of ToxServices projects for international certification organizations, testing laboratories and the US EPA. With over 15 years of experience working with NSF standards, Dr. Whittaker has evaluated more than 1,500 plumbing product and drinking water treatment formulations. She has overseen the extraction of hundreds of drinking water contaminants from products tested for compliance with NSF standards.

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