The Importance of Certification

Sept. 2, 2015
Reaping the benefits of selling certified water treatment systems

About the author: Greg Reyneke, MWS, is managing director for Red Fox Advisors. Reyneke can be reached at [email protected].

Now more than ever, nations are struggling to find cheap, reliable sources of clean, usable water. Where clean water cannot be sourced naturally, it must be processed to be fit for use. The water quality industry improves water quality in homes, businesses and industry through the intelligent selection and use of technologies that produce water economically and efficiently at the desired level of quality. 

The industry is filled with innovators who drive technological progress. Hundreds of patents are filed every year, describing new and exciting ways to improve water quality. Dealers continuously strive to induce customers to choose them over their competitors while also providing them with the best value for their money; meanwhile, manufacturers try to convince dealers of the superiority of their product offerings.

Because so many claims are made in the marketplace, and some are, unfortunately, less than truthful, consumers and regulators need a credible way to separate truth from fiction. To meet this need, there are a number of certification bodies in the market that develop standards and test to validate claims. Just being “certified” means nothing unless the certifying standard and testing agency are reputable, though. The most reputable testing standards in this industry are those developed by NSF Intl., the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and the Water Quality Assn. (WQA). 

Dealers should familiarize themselves with at least the following NSF/ANSI standards as they relate to point-of-use (POU) and point-of-entry (POE) water treatment equipment and related components.

NSF/ANSI Standard 61: Drinking Water System Components – Health Effects 

Most local government agencies in North America require water treatment or distribution products installed in their localities to be compliant with NSF/ANSI 61. Certification to this standard does not confirm that the products take anything out of the water, but rather that they will not put anything harmful into the water incidental to their use. This standard covers a number of components, fittings and fixtures, such as:

• Protective barrier materials (cements, paints and coatings);
• Joining and sealing materials (gaskets, adhesives and lubricants);
• Mechanical devices (water meters, valves and filters);
• Pipe and related products (pipe, hose and fittings);
• Plumbing devices (faucets and drinking fountains);
• Process media (filter media and ion exchange resin); and
• Non-metallic potable water materials (PEX pipe).

NSF/ANSI Standard 42: Drinking Water Treatment Units – Aesthetic Effects 

Aesthetic issues, such as sediment and chlorine taste and odor, are the primary reasons consumers want to improve their water. NSF/ANSI 42 ensures that a water treatment device can do what is claimed for the number of operating gallons claimed; that it will not add anything harmful to the water; and that it has sufficient structural integrity to operate in a code-compliant installation.

NSF/ANSI Standard 53: Drinking Water Treatment Units – Health Effects 

If a treatment system is being sold with claims that it removes Cryptosporidium, Giardia, lead, volatile organic compounds or methyl tertiary-butyl ether, then it should be certified to NSF/ANSI 53. When dealing with these pathogens and contaminants, people’s lives are at stake—this is not an area in which to cut corners.

NSF/ANSI Standard 44: Cation Exchange Water Softeners 

Water softeners covered by NSF/ANSI 44 use cation exchange resin, regenerated with sodium chloride or potassium chloride salt, to remove hardness from water. These minerals are replaced with sodium or potassium ions, depending on which regenerant is used. When softeners are certified to this standard, there is confirmation on the treatment throughput and well operational pressure drop. This standard does not test the real-world efficiency of the system, however, just the base efficiency, so the benefits of features such as twin alternating tanks, differential brining schemes, variable reserves or sensor-initiated regeneration are not formally validated. 

NSF/ANSI Standard 55: Ultraviolet (UV) Microbiological Water Treatment Systems 

This certification of POU/POE UV systems includes two optional classifications. Class A systems (40 mJ per sq cm) are designed to disinfect and/or remove microorganisms, including bacteria and viruses, from contaminated water to a “safe” level. These systems may claim to disinfect water that may be contaminated with pathogenic bacteria, viruses, Cryptosporidium or Giardia. Class B systems (16 mJ per sq cm) are designed for additional bactericidal treatment of public or other drinking water that is already microbiologically safe. These systems may claim to reduce normally occurring nuisance microorganisms.

NSF/ANSI Standard 58: Reverse Osmosis Drinking Water Treatment Systems 

NSF/ANSI 58 certification includes material safety, structural integrity, total dissolved solids reduction and other optional contaminant reduction claims. The most common optional claims addressed by this standard include cyst, hexavalent and trivalent chromium, arsenic, nitrate/nitrite, cadmium and lead reduction.

NSF/ANSI Standard 62: Drinking Water Distillation Systems 

NSF/ANSI 62 covers material safety, structural integrity, TDS reduction and a product literature review. It also covers any contaminant reduction claims, including total arsenic, chromium, mercury, nitrate/nitrite and microorganisms, from public and private water supplies.

NSF/ANSI Standard 401: Emerging Compounds/Incidental Contaminants 

Systems covered by NSF/ANSI 401 include several types of POU and POE systems that have been verified to reduce meprobamate, phenytoin, atenolol, carbamazepine, tris(2-carboxyethyl) phospine, tris(chloropropyl) phosphate, diethyltoluamide, metolachlor, trimethoprim, ibuprofen, naproxen, estrone, bisphenol A, linuron and nonyl phenol from drinking water. Expect to see this list grow over time as new information is discovered about endocrine disruptors and xenoestrogens.

Each of the certifying companies maintains an online searchable database of certified products that can be easily accessed to verify the status of a system or component.

Serving Customers Sustainably

Intelligent dealers know that they are not just selling products; they are providing their customers with improved water quality and peace of mind. For many customers, knowing that their product choices are environmentally responsible is important in making a buying decision.

The results of a recent survey of water treatment dealers indicated that environmental considerations are surging to the forefront of both dealer and customer concerns regarding the future of the industry.  The following are a few examples:

• Green methods of water treatment were the top concern raised by customers. Fifty-one percent of dealer respondents indicated that this issue was a customer concern. The other top customer concern was salt discharge from water softeners.

• Thirty-six percent of dealers indicated that adding green products or programs was an action they had taken during the previous 12 months to maintain and grow their businesses. 

Dealers are the vital connection between consumers of water treatment products and manufacturers. They have an important voice in helping shape the sustainability attributes of the products they sell, because the manufacturers of those products take their concerns seriously. Dealers who offer sustainably certified products are sending an important message, not only to their customers, who want to minimize their environmental impact, but also to the manufacturers who are evaluating the decision whether or not to get their products certified.

Everyone has had some experience with a green product that does not measure up in terms of performance (does anyone still use the first-generation low-flow toilets?). That is why the standard WQA/ASPE/ANSI S-803: Sustainable Drinking Water Treatment Systems requires that all products certified to it must first obtain certification to the applicable ANSI safety/performance standard as well.

When you offer products certified for sustainability to WQA/ASPE/ANSI S-803, you can be assured that the products not only perform safely and as advertised, but also meet rigorous and scientifically based criteria for environmental and social responsibility. Dealers who offer credible options for certified sustainable products will be uniquely positioned to take advantage of the opportunity to promote these products to the fast-growing and passionate segment of consumers who prefer to purchase products that also meet their requirements for protecting the needs of future generations.

Certification is the future. Focus on substantiating your claims and giving your clients peace of mind with certified systems and components—you will be glad that you did.

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About the Author

Greg Reyneke

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