Pauli Undesser, WQA Executive Director
It would be an understatement to say the challenges the water treatment industry faces in the coming year are enormous. And yet, challenges usually bring out unique opportunities to serve and work for the betterment of water quality. Three of the challenges are likely very familiar to you: perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs), lead and counterfeit filters. Each one presents a challenge and an opportunity for our industry.
PFCs, such as PFOA and PFOS, are man-made substances that find their way into the environment through such products as fire-fighting foams, non-sticking cookware, food packaging and many other applications. The challenge with PFCs is that they are difficult to remove with centralized drinking water treatment processes. We fully supported efforts by Congress to include a provision in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) in November which authorized a nationwide study on the implications of PFCs on drinking water. In addition, we endorse efforts by the US EPA to launch a cross-agency effort to deal with PFCs, along with state, local and tribal partners. In the meantime, the water treatment industry is making a difference. POU and POE water treatment devices can play a huge role in filtering out these chemicals.
Lead is an ongoing challenge again this year. Denver, CO—where we are hosting the WQA Convention & Exposition (March 26-29)—estimates it has as many as 90,000 lead service lines that need to be replaced. Another example is Chicago, located just 30 miles from WQA headquarters, which has somewhere between 100,000 and 200,000 lead service lines still in use. Again, POU and POE devices offer effective solutions for homeowners who need help, especially those in older homes or areas where the threat is higher. Last year, we provided a guide for school administrators on what to know about testing their schools’ water supplies for lead (http://go.wqa.org/leadinschools) and what steps they can take to help protect their students.
The problem of counterfeit products is very real and we’re taking a proactive approach to keep untested and non-certified products out of the marketplace. The Water Quality Association is part of a new group of associations that are working together to find solutions to halt counterfeit products from entering the United States. Known as the Coalition to Combat Counterfeiting (CCC), we hope to see an official launch in early 2018. We want to raise awareness while working to identify the major sources of counterfeit production and improve enforcement.
These and other issues are sure to dominate the discussion at our upcoming annual convention in Denver. Our educational agenda is designed with an eye toward what impacts our members, both from inside and outside the industry. This year’s technical topics run the gamut of water quality issues, everything from the impact of well construction to reducing chloride discharge, from naturally occurring health hazards in private wells, to addressing PFCs, unintended consequences of chloramination and even water treatment for poultry.
We also have a business track with the popular issues of hiring, firing, leadership and business ethics, as well as a one-day Business Operations Boot Camp that will take place the day before the convention opens, on March 25. Of course, we don’t know when the next hurricane will strike or when the next contaminant will emerge but we’re prepared to stay on top of these and other challenges as we seek new solutions to improve our water quality.