2020 Legislative Updates From Regional Water Quality Associations

April 9, 2020

This article originally appeared in Water Quality Products April 2020 issue as "A Year of Change" 

About the author:

Lauren Del Ciello is managing editor for WQP. Del Ciello can be reached at [email protected].


Canada Association Meets Manganese & Lead Challenges With Education

Paul Ethier

President, Canadian Water Quality Association

[email protected]

2019 was a year of change for both the Canadian Water Quality Association (CWQA) and the water treatment industry as a whole. Here are a few of the highlights from 2019. 

The year started with new drinking water guidelines on manganese that saw our manufacturers needing to ensure that their products were certified to the new level. The Spring Conference and Annual General Meeting in Niagara Falls was well attended with guest speakers, including Greg Reyneke with Red Fox Advisors; Edward VanGiesen with Watts Water Technologies; Mike Weatherill with Purolite; Dave Emmens with Pentair USA; Pieter deVries with UV Dynamics; Tanya Lubner with WQA; Jason Jackson with Fleming College; Darrel Keezer with Candybox Marketing; and Peter Barrow with Petrona Association. Topics of discussion ranged from PFAS, disinfection, manganese, PROP 65, rainwater harvesting and new product certification challenges. Lead still continues to dominate the water industry with municipalities trying to come up with ways to deal with the aging infrastructure and meeting the demands of Health Canada. 

The Government Affairs and Regulatory Committee was then tasked with new levels and testing for lower lead drinking water levels that are proving to be more dangerous than the levels in Flint, Michigan. The Fall Conference in Vancouver, BC, Canada, brought similar topics of PFAS, rainwater harvesting and disinfection, as well as new topics, such as how to deal with drought and arsenic. Along with topics on financing and social media in 2020.

The end of the year saw a change in the management with Shelley Peters taking the reigns as executive director. Peters has spent her entire career in the water treatment industry in Canada and continues to offer support and direction to the members of the CWQA. The CWQA continues to offer education through online and in-class options. In 2019, CWQA added nearly 50 new learners into the program.

Eastern Association Adapts to Face Emerging Contaminant Regulations

Marianne Metzger

Executive Director, Eastern Water Quality Association

[email protected]

Within the vast territory covered by the Eastern Water Quality Association (EWQA), there have been lots of regulations surrounding emerging contaminants such per- and polyflouroalkyl substances (PFAS) commonly referred to as forever chemicals and 1,4-dioxane. From North Carolina all the way up to Maine, there are several areas with groundwater and surface water being impacted by these chemicals. Back in 2016, the U.S. EPA has established health guidelines for PFOA and PFOS at a combined level of 70 parts per trillion (ppt) but has not yet set enforceable standards for these contaminants in our drinking water. 

Many states have opted to adopt their own regulations with regard to these chemicals instead of waiting for the EPA to begin the process of regulation. Certain states have adopted the EPA recommended levels, while other have chosen to be more stringent in the levels established. States, establishing groundwater quality standards for these groups of chemicals, will also help drive any government mandated remediation or cleanup of contamination sites. While some EWQA states, such as Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, Maine, New Jersey, New York, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont have taken some action regarding these emerging contaminants, other states, such as North Carolina, are struggling to establish any levels because of the significant cost of cleanup and to what degree these contaminants must be cleaned up. 

In addition to PFAS contaminants, 1,4-dioxane has also been found in drinking water sources as revealed by test results released in 2016. States, including Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Vermont within the EWQA territory have all established guidelines without waiting for EPA to act. New York had discovered this contaminant in the drinking water of hundreds of people in Long Island and is looking to reduce the levels going into drinking water sources. Unfortunately, this contaminant is found in some detergents, other cleaning products and some personal care products, such as shampoo, conditioners and other cosmetics that are used everyday. New York has a new law which will limit the amount of 1,4-dioxane in these products which ultimately ends up in the water supply. This contaminant presents some unique challenges as it is extremely mobile, does not readily degrade and treating water with this contaminant is costly and challenging. Currently, there is no treatment for removing 1,4-dioxane from drinking water at home.

The EWQA is dedicated to educating our membership about emerging contaminants such as these and which states are enacting new regulations surrounding these new challenges to clean drinking water. 

Texas Association Heads to Austin

Perry Ratcliff

President, Texas Water Quality Association

Once each year, the Board of Directors for the Texas Water Quality Association (TWQA) has one of our quarterly meetings at the state capitol in Austin. With a state that encompasses 268,580 square miles and 254 counties with 150 members in our house of representatives and more than 55 committees, we have to be involved as much as we can. In Texas, our legislature only meets once every two years so it is imperative that we stay in touch with as many of the legislators that we can even in an off year. This next session we will have a new Speaker of the House, and as a result, many of the committee assignments will probably change. 

In the previous session we knew many of the committee members that were on the committees that effect our “occupation code” and “licensing” and as a result we will have some new people to meet and form relationships with. We encourage all of our members to know who their local representatives are and to stop by their offices to say hello. Chances are you may not get to meet your legislator in person, but you can talk to their staff and let them know that you own a local business in the district and that you would like to be a resource on any water-related questions. The legislators cannot know everything about every bill that is proposed so if you can become a resource for them you can be of benefit to the entire industry. 

To sum this up, I would recommend that you get to know your local legislators and pay attention to what is happening locally as well as what is happening in Austin. If you hear of something that may be a cause for concern on the local or state level, please let us know.

Wisconsin Association Spearheads Water Quality Initiatives

Samuel D. Baron

President, Water Quality Association of Wisconsin

Last year, Wisconsin elected a Democratic governor with a Republican held Senate. Governor Evers declared 2019 a year of “safe drinking water” and a 16-member task force was established to collect information. Meetings were held across the state where the task force heard facts, opinions and plenty of “blame.” While many of the bills and recommendations were lame duck knowing that they would die with either the legislature or on the governor’s desk, a few have managed to become wins for the water treatment industry.

A bill aimed at nitrate contamination now has wording that would put a priority on treatment up to 25 ppm. A “drill first” mentality has been the standard practice in Wisconsin for decades. Lead testing and treatment options continue to make headway in the municipal systems. Wisconsin is looking to set their own maximum contaminant level (MCL) for some PFAS. The Department of Natural Resources has changed the practice of individual case-by-case investigations for wells that are bacteriologically contaminated to a “state approved treatment device” will be accepted.

The Madison Chloride Discharge Study has prompted the city of Waukesha to start (with the help of WQA) an optimization program. There are some speed bumps and learning curves to this program but it seems to be gaining ground with dealers participating. It has lead to discussions of maintenance programs, rental upgrades and overall concern for the environmental impact of older units.

The Water Quality of Wisconsin (WQAW) board of directors approved a budget in 2019 to actively lobby Madison on behalf of the industry and champion treatment options for upcoming issues. Up until now, the WQAW has only monitored bills moving through government. The board is considering taking the same approach to 2020, as the results are being seen throughout the state.

The acquisition of Water-Right and Hellenbrand in Wisconsin has also shown a light on Wisconsin as a leader in the country’s water treatment industry. Both of these purchases came within months of each other and saw multi-generational companies not only get sold, but a commitment to technology moving the entire industry forward was put forth by both purchasing entities.

As a whole, Wisconsin finds itself in a position it has never been in. Having a seat at the table and not just standing behind a chair watching is an enviable place to be in. The future of water treatment in the state of Wisconsin looks to be very bright.

As California Goes, So Goes the Nation

Greg Reyneke, MWS

President, Pacific Water Quality Association

There is a finite amount of available water on our planet, which thanks to natural and anthropomorphic factors seems to be becoming an increasingly scarce resource. As humans continue to expand civilization, significant amounts of water are required to maintain modern societies. In the post-war U.S. after the baby boom and massive urbanization, meeting increasing demand while managing water quality expectations became a significant challenge for the water supply industry, and brilliant minds realized that municipal water should be reused more effectively.

Non-potable reuse involves using treated wastewater for agriculture, irrigation, industrial cooling, toilet flushing and fire protection. Indirect reuse involves guiding treated wastewater to reservoirs or back into the ground where water will eventually percolate down into aquifers to be used “as new.” Direct reuse involves advanced filtration and purification processes to make wastewater drinkable; the eponymous “toilet to tap” process.

Naturally, when reusing water (especially for irrigation), it is important to keep the salinity, chlorides and Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) below critical levels. Decades ago, Californian water managers noticed a progressive increase in chlorides and other conductive ions in irrigation water and decided that something had to me done to minimize the negative impact on agriculture. Lawmakers, utility managers and activists quickly identified a potential contributor to increasing chloride levels that would be easy to target and attack: automatic salt-based ion exchange water softeners.

The Santa Clarita Valley drew their line in the sand in 1961, banning automatic softeners in businesses. In 2003 they made news again with the nation’s first ban on installation of new residential automatic water softeners. The Santa Clara River Chloride Reduction Ordinance (Measure S) of 2008 required removal of all residential automatic water softeners by June 30, 2009. Voters were assured that if they did not pass Measure S, sewer rates would increase exponentially to finance a massive desalination system. The measure passed, and according to the district, almost 8,000 softeners were removed from homes. Sewer rates subsequently increased almost threefold, in spite of passing Measure S – prompting Rep. George Runner to pen his now famous “Bait and Switch” letter. The jury is still out on whether these bans have really helped at all, yet legislators in other areas continue to propose similar bans and well-intentioned yet uninformed environmental activists continue to berate salt-based ion-exchange water softeners.

Lawsuits were filed, further legislation proposed, and the water improvement industry led by stalwarts at the PWQA and WQA fought hard to protect consumers from knee jerk legislation and arbitrary appliance bans. These trade organizations still stand guard, protecting the rights of American consumers and the related companies that serve them.

Salt-based ion-exchange is the simplest and cheapest technology to soften water in today’s marketplace. Water industry experts continue to teach the true environmental benefits of water softening; how softeners reduce greenhouse gasses, how softeners reduce soap and surfactant usage, how softeners save energy, and how appliances, clothing, plumbing and drainage infrastructure will last longer with softened water. Some people do not even realize that salt-based ion exchange technology is used to protect countless Americans from heavy metals, arsenic, nitrates and a host of other ionic contaminants. Most legislators and consumers do not fully comprehend or understand the very real benefits of softening technologies.

While water scarcity is a critically important issue in California, many communities across the U.S. are also experiencing water shortages, calling into question the viability of a national water supply infrastructure that is continually threatened by droughts, pollution, population growth and climate change. More than 30 states currently face serious water shortages, and potable water demand is beginning to outpace supply in prominent cities like Los Angeles and Las Vegas. Water districts will increasingly implement recycling and reuse strategies to provide for their populations. Wastewater salinity will continue to be a thorn in the side of the water quality improvement, management, and reuse industries.

In 2019, the Pacific Water Quality Association (PWQA) again faced misguided legislation in Hollister, Solvang and Malibu, where onsite self-regenerating water softeners were outlawed. More localities around the country have also attempted bans. In some areas, bans were averted by implementing efficiency enhancement programs, or restricting the use of outdated technologies. Much of this progress was made by dedicated men and women volunteering their time and talents for regional and national WQA’s, which is why it is so important to be actively involved.

Just like passage of the Volstead Act, further legislative attempts against salt-based water softeners are inevitable, and California typically is first out the gate with well-intentioned legislation that does not always have the intended benefits. It is not a matter of if, but rather when regulations will be proposed in your area. What should we do …Complain? Cry? No! We must do what American Industry does best…Innovate!

The beauty of our American economy is that consumers can drive product development trends with their purchasing dollars. Ion exchange water softeners have become progressively more efficient over the last 50 years without legislative intervention because manufacturers have responded to consumers’ desire for more salt-efficient technologies fueled by enterprising dealers seeking a competitive edge.

Looking at the offerings in today’s marketplace, I am pleased to see continuing improvements in salt-based softening technologies like proportional, variable and differential brining, widespread adoption of upflow (countercurrent) regeneration methods, improvements in structured matrix resins and resin-exhaustion sensors, all of which have been driven by consumer demand and dealers who truly care about bringing the best water products to their clients.

Innovative dealers are also taking a layered approach to water quality management, where water is treated to different levels for different uses in the home or business to maximize brine efficiency and minimize potential environmental impact. Other dealers are also helping their customers to identify why they want a softener and helping to select proven salt-free scale control technologies where appropriate and beneficial.

Disruptive technologies naturally displace the outdated products of the past, so it is no surprise to see great leaps forward in salt-free softening technologies, like membrane separations and electro-deionization. It is not unrealistic to predict that within the next 25 years, at least 25% of the residential softening market will comprise salt-free softening technologies that actually do remove hardness from water.

We need to continue to make our products more efficient, inspect and calibrate installed systems regularly and embrace viable alternative technologies. Most importantly, our industry needs to be more vocal in communicating the real benefits of water quality improvement technologies to consumers, legislators and environmental groups; we are all legitimate stakeholders in the future of our planet.

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