Giant Blue Bear sculpture near the entrance of the Denver Convention Center

By David H. Martin

Denver, March 26, 2018. The long-simmering detante between the Water Quality Association (WQA) and the much larger American Water Works Association (AWWA) advanced—sort of—under the watchful eye of the Big Blue Bear in front of the Denver Convention Center. On stage at the Mile High Ballroom, WQA Executive Director Pauli Undesser sat face-to-face with AWWA CEO David LaFrance. Undesser posed the question: “How can the two associations work together to assure Americans safe, healthy drinking water?”

LaFrance’s response? “While we may be focused on different aspects of water treatment, we share a common bond and purpose in providing quality water for everyone. The current AWWA strategy for replacing lead service lines includes a role for point-of-use and point-of-entry equipment, where appropriate.”

Only weeks before, in a podcast interview with WQA’s Marketing and Communications Director Wes Bleed, LaFrance expressed that the POU/POE industry’s proper role to the public is to provide “final barrier protection.” One wonders why these especially meaningful words were not repeated in the AWWA chief’s address to members of the 2018 Water Quality Convention.

Joint history fraught with age-old mistrust issues
Thirty years ago, this reporter was first made aware of a perceived conflict of the two associations’ interests, as expressed by then-WQA President Duane ‘Doc’ Nowlin, PhD, when he spoke at the annual, Mid-Year Leadership Conference in Door County, WI. Nowlin felt that AWWA had taken the defensive position that municipal water quality’s reputation would be increasingly threatened by growing public concerns of municipal drinking water safety and by its fear that new US EPA Safe Drinking Water standards might drive up the cost of water in communities across the US. At the same time, POU/POE dealers were suspiciously seen by the more-powerful AWWA as perhaps disparaging public water in their efforts to promote end-of-faucet and other home filtration products.

The battle lines were drawn and Dr. Nowlin warned that AWWA’s political activity included a program to influence bad legislation, seeking to make it illegal to disparage public drinking water! Note: POU dealers have, ever since, carefully avoided any potential disparagement by consistently crediting water utilities with doing the best job they can to deal with water quality issues.

Former House Majority Leader Richard Gebhardt of The Gebhardt Group

Gebhardt Group: trends should encourage cooperation
The Honorable Richard Gebhardt, head of WQA’s Washington-based lobbying group, floated the idea of establishing a state or federal tax credit for people who install POU equipment in their homes or places of businesses as a bridge to provide protection from lead contamination. “I think we all know that there will not be funding available for a massive infrastructure program to replace all the lead service pipes in the US.” PWQA’s legislative advocate, Randy Pollack, spoke of efforts to establish such a program in California, to benefit residents of the state’s vast Central Valley region, which has limited water infrastructure.

WQA’s David Loveday, speaking at the same Monday morning forum that brought together a panel of experts, leaders and educators, cited the coming new wave of emerging contaminants of concern that will surely challenge the capabilities of public utilities to deal with them. “The public will provide pressure on utilities to act on these issues, which might be most effectively handled by POU products.”

Gebhardt emphasized the importance of industry manufacturers, suppliers and dealers making their voices heard at local town-hall meetings where public officials get vital input on issues important to their constituents. “All of you have an important role to play,” said Gephardt, “at a local level, a state level and at the federal level.”

Megan Stout of Brita PRO

New line of professionally installed filters and softeners
Protect Plus Pro LLC, Hickory, NC showed a new line of water softeners and professionally installed home and light-commercial water filters, licensed under the Brita PRO name. The company has established a network of authorized dealers in seven markets. High-capacity, whole-house filters and water softeners all feature the famous Brita brand known for America’s most popular pitcher filters. Megan Stout spoke with WC&P at the company’s show booth. “We represent air and water filtration products at retail,” said Stout, “including undersink and refrigerator filters for retail stores.” The company was at WQA to show the new product lines and solicit new dealers nationally. “Our titanium whole-house filter cartridges feature proprietary technology with a 1.5-inch (3.8-cm) outlet. There’s a lead-reduction cartridge rated for six months or 60,000 gallons (227,124 liters), with a flowrate of 6-8 gpm (22.7- 30.2 L/m) and 95-percent lead reduction. We think it will be a key product and game-changer in the industry.”

Liangjie Dong of Mesofilter Inc. demonstrating pour-through Mesopaper

Breakthough technology filters many contaminants without water pressure
Mesofilter Inc., San Jose, CA introduced a revolutionary, pour-through, ceramic-coated paper filter, said to remove lead and arsenic (among other contaminants) without need of water pressure, energy or chemicals. WC&P interviewed company CEO and inventor Liangjie Dong, who personally demonstrated Mesopaper in its show booth.

“Mesopaper,” explained Dong, “is a sandwich of three layers of bamboo paper, coated with ceramic material,” which gives it extraordinary filtration capabilities for a range of water contaminants. “It is, in effect, a membrane that doesn’t waste water and is made from all-natural, biodegradable materials. It removes more than 99 percent of lead, other heavy metals, arsenic and radioactive elements. It also inactivates all bacteria and viruses.” In addition, says Dong, it produces no hazardous byproducts and provides more than 80-percent cost savings, compared to other filtration methods, including plastic membranes.

It is the only paper filter to achieve NSF 42/53 certification for removal of arsenic and lead. One square-foot can purify 10 gallons (37.8 liters) of water. It is available in two configurations: 9- x 9-inch (22.8- x 22.8-cm) square and 9-inch diameter round. The three-paper sandwich has a thickness of 0.4 mm. Hole-size diameters are between 40-50 nanometers, which is known as the mesoscale. Though the product functions as a drip filter, the flowrate is from 1.5-3 liters/min under tap-water pressure. Mesopaper-filtered drinking water is 7.2-7.8 pH. The water filtration cartridges can be formed as follows: 10-inch (25.4-cm), 30-layer cartridge (@ 2.2 liters/min) produces 5,000 liters (1,320 gallons) or 20-inch (50.8-cm); 30-layer cartridge (@ 3 liters/min) produces 8,000 liters (2,113 gallons).

The potential applications of this technology are said to be many. It can be used for tap , industrial or wastewater, unclear wastewater, air and oil purification. It can also be applied for portable and convenient drinking water applications, such as for camping in the wild or emergency kits for disaster relief. Dong spent 15 years developing the technology at the University of Hawaii and now, three patents are pending.

First WQA Boot Camp exceeded expectations
A full-day event on March 25 was the lead-in program for the convention covering business operations for dealers in such areas as strategic planning, reducing overhead, how to coach and succession planning. Tim Miles was featured along with Derek and John Packard, Michael Thompson and Denise Urbans. Feedback was highly favorable among dealers attending the Dealer Section meeting on March 28, where it was reported that 50 dealers had been expected and 75 attended the Boot Camp. It will again be scheduled before the 2019 WQA Convention in Las Vegas, NV.

The 2018 WQA Convention aired the challenges and opportunities for the two leading drinking water associations to work together for the common cause of solving water quality problems, locally and nationally. Sometimes, though, progress is measured in baby steps, as expressed by Pauli Undesser to this reporter at the WQA Welcome Reception at Denver’s Wynkoop Brewery.

About the author
David H. Martin is President of Lenzi Martin Marketing, Oak Park, IL, a firm specializing in water improvement and environmental marketing that integrates old and new media. He can be reached at (708) 848-8404 or by email at [email protected]


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