Water industry professionals must stay up-to-date on any possible risks threatening water supplies in order to adequately educate consumers on the latest and most effective water treatment solutions available. With technological advancements, especially regarding analytical testing, more and more emerging contaminants (ECs) have been found in water sources that have not, or could not, be discovered before, with analytical testing almost routinely detecting contaminants at parts per trillion (ppt) levels. In a previous issue of Water Technology, we dived into the depths regarding contaminants of concern (CECs) in water, how technology has played a role and offered a brief description of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) regulation process (read the entire article here: https://www.watertechonline.com/articles/168905).
Every five years in accordance with the Safe Drinking Water Act (SWDA), EPA publishes a Contaminant Candidate List (CCL), which includes substances not currently regulated in drinking water, but they may be in the future. EPA bases this list on scientific knowledge about the effects of ECs on humans and the environment.
After a final CCL is published, EPA will determine whether or not to regulate at least five contaminants in a process called “Regulatory Determinations.” According to the EPA, a Regulatory Determination is “a formal decision on whether EPA should initiate a process to develop a national primary drinking water regulation for a specific contaminant.” Contaminants from the CCL are evaluated by the following criteria: Substances occur in public water systems with a frequency and at levels of public health concern, substances may have an adverse effect on public health and where regulation presents an opportunity for reducing health risks. One such occurrence happened last October, when EPA made the preliminary determination to regulate strontium in drinking water.
With EPA’s CCL 4 currently under review, and the draft recently released in February, we will take a closer look at the CCL 4, and why water treatment professionals must stay cognizant of the contaminants listed.
Examining CCL 4
According to EPA’s “Fact Sheet: Drinking Water Contaminant Candidate List 4 – Draft,” the CCL 4 draft includes “100 chemicals or chemical groups and 12 microbial contaminants that are known or anticipated to occur in public water systems. The list includes, among others, chemicals used in commerce, pesticides, biological toxins, disinfection byproducts, pharmaceuticals and waterborne pathogens.”
For the final CCL 4 evaluation and selection process, EPA reported that it will “carry forward CCL 3 contaminants” not currently under Regulatory Determination, evaluate public nominations for additional contaminants not listed in the draft and assess any new data for the contaminants listed with prior negative regulatory determinations from CCL 1 or CCL 2 to potentially be included in CCL 4.
A few contaminants listed in the CCL 4 draft as reported in the EPA fact sheet include:
- Cyanotoxins, or toxins produced by cyanobacteria, commonly referred to as blue-green algae
- 1,4 Dioxane, used as a solvent or solvent stabilizer in the manufacturing and processing of various commercial products
- Acetochlor, a herbicide
- Chlorate, used in agriculture as desiccants and defoliants; may appear in water due to the use of disinfectants
- Equilin, an estrogenic hormone
- Germanium, a naturally-occurring element, sometimes sold as a dietary supplement
- Manganese, a naturally-occurring element used in several applications and can be found in vitamin/mineral supplements and fortified foods.
Since the actual effects of the contaminants listed in CCLs still need to be determined, the exact health risks, if any, are uncertain. However, a growing awareness of contaminants like pesticides, pharmaceuticals and chemicals in water has been spreading throughout the water industry, and even reaching some consumers.
How CCLs can impact sales
Not only can ECs possibly change treatment technologies and products currently on the market, as not one single water treatment technology can treat every contaminant affecting water sources, but they also often trigger consumers to start questioning the quality of their water.
According to Sam Karge, vice president of Pentair Water Purification, a division of Pentair, water dealers must be aware of CCLs, whether there is a real health risk or not. Karge believes that consumers see headlines with contaminants printed in big, bold fonts or hear about contaminants in water through media outlets, friends and family, etc., and without proper education and the facts regarding these contaminants, these consumers may start to question if their water is safe.
Karge continues that though there may not be an actual risk to a person’s health in the short- and/or long-term, the fact that a contaminant is measureable, may give an end user concern. “As we all know as an industry, what the consumer wants and what [he or she is] concerned about is what we need to give answers to; whether it actually has a net effect on [his or her] body or not, that’s debatable,” he explains. “The fact of the matter is we are, as an industry of water professionals, here to develop products and invoke products that allay the consumer's fears. And if we can’t address that and say that we have technology that removes ‘xyz’ from the water using reverse osmosis, or carbon filtration, or ion exchange or another method, consumers are going to go out and try to find an alternative.”
Furthermore, explains Karge, when discussing ECs in water with consumers, the dealer’s role is not to scare consumers regarding the potential health risks associated with the contaminants present in their water, but rather, to educate the customers and prospects about the various technologies available that can either remove or remediate the contaminants.
This education will help not only to reassure consumers about the safety of their water, while providing them with the knowledge of the treatment solutions available, but also to establish a level of trust that can help boost the chances of repeat and/or new business.
In order to effectively teach customers and prospects of ECs in water, dealers must stay current on the regulatory processes like CCLs and regulatory determinations, in addition to the latest news, studies, research, etc., concerning existing and emerging contaminants.
“When it comes right down to it, consumers will want to address [ECs] one way or another, so we need to be aware of what is out there,” says Karge. “We need to be ready to address [these contaminants] because consumers are going to ask [about them].”
Having this knowledge gives water treatment professionals an edge over their competitors, not only in educating consumers of the best treatment available, but also to develop, supply and/or sell the latest, most innovative technologies and solutions to most effectively treat these contaminants, ensuring an optimal quality of water and happy, worry-free consumers.