By Emma H. Peterson
In 2001, Tina Donda joined the water treatment industry as an assistant to a lab director. Her intent was to leave when she was able to start a family, and as a lover of science and the lab atmosphere, she thought it would be a great way to pass the time. Fast forward 20 years and three kids later, Donda is still here rocking the drinking water treatment certification world. She has served as Vice President of International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials (IAPMO) for the past five years.
IAPMO is a trade organization dedicated to improving piped water and sanitation solutions globally. It performs product testing and certifications to the applicable codes and standards and partners with industry and government to provide the most comprehensive and practical installation codes and standards to protect the health and safety of the public. IAPMO serves a global market, both residential and commercial. It primarily offers product testing and certification, “providing recognized product markings, ensuring marketplace recognition,” Donda says.
IAPMO’s philanthropic arm is the International Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Foundation. It assembles teams of skilled plumbing volunteers to improve access to water, sanitation and hygiene for a variety of communities in need. IAPMO is involved with numerous projects worldwide that are not limited to developing countries. “There are an estimated two million people in the United States that need their access to be improved,” Donda says. Connecting with local leaders, governmental and non-profit partners, labor organizations and manufacturers has allowed IAPMO to plumb potable water and sanitation solutions on the Navajo Nation and address water quality issues in Nome, Texas.
IAPMO’s water systems division is focused on drinking water treatment products. Its goal is to offer cost effective testing and certification services by partnering with both multiple testing providers and the clients they work with. “We offer a clear path to the end goal, which is certification that meets regulatory and marketing needs,” Donda says. The team is committed to bringing these services to their clients in a timely fashion while maintaining the integrity of their accreditation. IAPMO has prioritized educating the team to be armed with the knowledge clients need, meaning engineers/project managers are empowered to make decisions on the spot rather than circling back later.
IAPMO is dedicated to growing with the industry. In the recent past, the company has launched two new standards, including ASSE 1086, which is dedicated to water conservation with respect to RO systems, and ASSE 1087, which is focused on establishing requirements for food service and commercial products. IAPMO continues to be a fast-growing company, always looking for mutually beneficial merger and acquisition opportunities. In the next five years, it plans to continue experiencing organic growth in core programs and exponential growth in newer programs. “We will focus on strengthening our key partnerships, continue to offer exceptional customer service and help the water treatment industry bring new products to market with our standard development activities, protect testing laboratories, product certification services and resilient codes,” Donda says.
IAPMO’s ultimate mission is making sure that everyone has access to clean water and sanitation. “We measure our success in lives, water and total lifecycle costs saved, contributing to strong healthy communities and economies at home and around the world,” Donda says. The company considers itself partners with the communities serves. Some of the benefits provided include:
• Live support for questions on job sites that mitigate costly construction delays; available to anyone in a Uniform Codes jurisdiction, not just their members
• Research and insights that help customers make sense of today’s sophisticated water-related technologies and understand the impact of their plumbing code decisions on the personal safety and business interests of their constituents
• Clarity in details that help small construction businesses thrive
“Our pledge of professionalism is written in the codes that serve generations across the life of millions of structures around the world,” Donda says, “because safety belongs to everyone.”
IAPMO has endured its fair share of tribulations since the beginning but is proud of how it has always come out on top. “The water systems program decided to spread its wings at a time where two very strong players existed in the certification world. A third entity was a risky endeavor, as a good part of the market share needed to shift to survive,” Donda says, “However, the program has a very strong foundation of understanding and meeting client needs while maintaining cost effective pricing and timely service. It is these foundational principles that have allowed the program to not only prevail but become a major player in the drinking water treatment certification arena.”
IAPMO believes it dealt with changes due to the pandemic flawlessly. The company’s teams were able to combine a perfect mix of working remotely, in-person staffing for activities (such as testing, that cannot be done from home) and conducting thousands of remote facility inspections during the pandemic. While certainly devastated by the loss of work in the US due to the pandemic, IAPMO is beyond proud to say that it not only remained financially stable throughout the pandemic, but was also able to keep all staff employed throughout, with no furlough.
Donda believes the water treatment industry will have a great decade. “As more and more consumers and business recognize issues with water utility infrastructure, distribution and greater focus on water quality, one of the primary solutions will be POU and POE water conditioning,” she says.
Twenty years later, Donda continues to take delight in the field. “I have stayed in the industry because it is so dynamic,” she says. “The continuously changing nature of the business is what keeps it interesting.” Emphasis on water quality across the board continues to grow worldwide. Now a regular topic of concern and on the minds of legislators and consumers daily, people are now more understanding that water quality is not a consistent luxury available all the time. “There is always something new and dangerous that can affect the quality of our water. Issues we have seen across the country including lead, arsenic, perchlorates and the newest forever chemicals (PFAS), are some big examples of how the industry’s reaction to the problems that arise has kept me interested and engaged,” Donda says.
About the author
Emma H. Peterson, author of WC&P International’s corporate and dealer profile series, is a student at the University of Arizona, majoring in journalism, with a minor in natural resources. Throughout her college experience, she has developed a following for her photography and photojournalism endeavors. After graduation, Peterson intends to broadly expand her creative/ feature writing and photography prospects, as well as pursue her personal interests in skiing and rock climbing.