On the Rise

Aug. 13, 2021

POU & POE solutions remain effective contaminant removal tools

About the author:

Kathleen Fultz is regulatory and government affairs manager for the Water Quality Assn. Fultz can be reached at [email protected] or 630.505.0160.

Point-of-use (POU) and point-of-entry (POE) treatment as a viable solution to address drinking water contamination concerns continues to be embraced by federal and state legislators. States have been challenged by aging infrastructure, the cost of repairs and the need to create affordable water supplies in rural or remote areas. Incorporating POU and POE technologies establishes multiple barriers against contamination.  

“The EPA believes these devices, when owned and maintained by the water system, can provide adequate protection of public health from contaminants with chronic health effects,” said former U.S. EPA Director of the Drinking Water Protection Div. William Diamond in a memorandum dated March 19, 2001. 

EPA provides a list of devices and the contaminants they will remove in multiple educational documents, including the agency’s Small Systems Compliance Technology List. System compliance with the Safe Drinking Water Act while using POU and POE water treatment also is explained in the regulation. 

Local Infrastructure Challenges

East Hampton, N.Y. In May 2018, East Hampton, N.Y., declared a state of emergency in Wainscott, N.Y., where perfluorinated chemicals were detected in 141 private wells. In the same month, the town board voted 5-0 in favor of enabling East Hampton to reimburse homeowners whose private wells contain perfluorinated chemicals up to $3,000 for the installation of POE treatment water filtration systems. 

Cedar Gulch, S.D. In the small rural community of Cedar Gulch, the residents had drinking water with radium exceeding the maximum contaminant level. To address this issue, the Community Engineering Corps (CECorps) volunteered to help the community address its infrastructure challenges. 

After a comparative analysis and a look at short- and long-term effectiveness, the CECorps reported in 2016. 

“Ultimately, the project team focused on one alternative, which happened to be the least expensive: districted-managed, POE, POU drinking water treatment units, using the Cedar Gulch well water with in-home water softeners and ion exchange technologies,” the report said.

Flint, Mich. During the Flint, Mich., water crisis, POU filters certified to remove lead were distributed to residents who were on the Flint drinking water system. EPA evaluated the efficacy of the filters and published the Flint, MI Filter Challenge Assessment on June 22, 2016. 

For the initial assessment, EPA collected samples of both filtered and unfiltered water from more than 200 taps. The results demonstrated that when the filters were installed and operating properly, they effectively reduced lead with “most data showing lead through the filters at levels too low to be detected,” according to the assessment.

As a part of the overall assessment, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) worked with EPA to expand sampling at locations of full lead service lines and/or at-risk populations and homes with the highest reported lead results. ATSDR’s review of the EPA data concluded the “filters distributed in Flint are effective in consistently reducing the lead in tap water, in most cases to undetectable levels, and in all cases to levels that would not result in a significant increase in overall lead exposure.” ATSDR’s summary went on to state that “the filter test data supports the conclusion that the use of filtered water would protect all populations, including pregnant women and children, from exposure to lead-contaminated water.” 

Legislative Snapshot

Signed in December 2016 among other drinking water provisions, the federal Water Infrastructure Improvement Action for the Nation (WINN) Act incorporated the Savings Act to create a clearinghouse of public information on cost-effectiveness of alternative drinking water delivery systems, including systems supported by wells. 

This session, Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) is sponsoring Senate Bill 1401, Get the Lead Out of Schools Act, to amend the Safe Drinking Water Act. The proposed legislation focuses on addressing lead contamination in drinking water at schools and creates a school lead testing and remediation grant program. 

Along with the discussions and legislation at the federal level, state legislatures also have been reviewing proposed legislation on drinking water and specifically using POU and POE systems. 

In 2017, Washington, D.C., enacted Legislative Bill 29, requiring public schools, public charter schools, child development facilities and recreation facilities to locate all drinking water sources, install and maintain certified filters for reducing lead at all drinking water sources, and test all drinking water sources annually. 

In New Hampshire, Senate Bill 247 was signed into law in February 2018. It includes provisions for a landlord of a leased unit to provide notification to tenants when lead in drinking water exceeds the EPA action level. The landlord also is required to install and maintain a certified filter device. Introduced in California, Assembly Bill 2728 looks at authorizing the State Water Resources Control Board to establish a grant program for the replacement of corroded or lead-containing plumbing and service lines. It also includes provisions on treatment by allowing the grant to cover the installation of POU and POE treatment. 

New Jersey has introduced more than 10 bills focusing on lead in drinking water, several of which are listing installing and maintaining a filter at the drinking water outlet as a remediation technique. Other proposed legislation goes a step further to require financial assistance for installing and maintaining filters, and another bill requires the use of certified filters in institutions of higher education. 

New Jersey Assembly Bill 2420 was amended in May 2018 and now proposes requiring water suppliers to reimburse customers for drinking water testing and the cost of a filter certified to remove lead, including the cost of installation. Assembly Bill 3070 and Senate Bill 772 both focus on requiring lead testing for institutions of higher education; these institutions must install water filters or treatment devices to remove lead. 

Drinking water quality remains a major governmental topic since the Flint, Mich., water crisis spurred a closer look at remediation. Continuing to monitor governmental news can help businesses navigate the regulatory landscape and offer opportunities.

About the Author

Kathleen Fultz

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