Over the past fifty years, the point-of-use [POU] water treatment industry has addressed the quality of water by developing products that reduce iron, hardness, and other minerals while improving the taste, color and odor of drinking water. These products are used by the consumers in the home either for treatment of municipal utility water or from well water sources. In addition, many commercial and industrial establishments such as laundromats, hotels, restaurants and manufacturing processes have turned to larger systems for purer water supplies.
In recent years, the industry has responded to the problems created by increasing contamination of private and public water supplies from land fills, underground waste storage agriculture, industry and individuals by addressing the health related issues. The advances have been strengthened by the need for community and non-community public water systems and their need to examine cost effective alternatives such as POU devices as evidenced by the most recent amendments to the USA safe drinking water guidelines set down by the Environmental Protection Agency [EPA].
These new requirements which were effective January 1989 [in the USA only], will place heavy financial burdens on all water supply systems, especially the smaller ones, which rely on taxpayer dollars to maintain and operate the system. These new regulations, the "V.O.C." [volatile organic compounds] guidelines, apply to all public water supply systems that supply more than twenty-five year round residents with their water. The public is becoming more aware of problems arising from the contamination of our water supplies. In a study of public attitudes, the American water works association research foundation has concluded that 2.5% of the respondents believed that the tap water was not safe to drink.
This shows that there is a significant number of people who simply do not trust tap water. These people represent a sizeable market for bottled water and home treatment devices. In addition, there are consumers who want to enhance their water quality which will increase the demand for POU devices.
The point-of-use water treatment industry covers a broad range of products and applications from drinking water, to working water, to waste water. Each of these applications has a number of product alternatives that can be used to help improve the quality of the water for its intended use.
The balance of this section seeks to expound upon these water treatment markets and applications. While by no means complete, the listings are meant to provide a general perspective on the industry and its vitality.
Sales of water treatment equipment and supplies cover a wide market including residential and commercial/industrial sales both inside the Unite States and abroad. In many countries, the only potable water available is produced through applications of point-of-use equipment. In the United States and more developed countries, point-of-use products are applied to improve the quality of water for specific uses.
The point-of-use water treatment market is divided into three segments:
The total estimated market sales are 3.0 billion dollars. Since 1983, bottled water has shown the greatest growth and the industrial market has realized the greatest decline - from a 46% of the market share to 40% of the overall market.
We will discuss numbers 1 and 2 but we will not attempt to go into the industrial market. Before we go on, the following excerpt from the EPA will serve to show you where and what is planned for POU and POE domestic products in the near future.
The U.S. EPA published their position concerning the utilization of POU/POE devices by public water systems as part of the VOC final rule in the Federal Register on July 8, 1987. In summary, the EPA has designated POE [point of entry] technologies as an acceptable means of full compliance with the VOC [volatile organic contaminants] regulations but not as BAT [best available technology]. POU [point of use] technologies and bottled water cannot be used to achieve full compliance with the regulations, however, at state discretion, either may be required as a condition of, or prior to, granting a variance of exemption. EPA has established a set of conditions for the use of POU/POE devices that will assure protection of public health.
The VOC MCL's [maximum contaminant level] went into effect on January 9, 1989 and are as follows:
These regulations apply to all community water systems [serving at least 15 service connections used by year-round residents or regularly serves at least 25 year-round residents].
Additionally, non-community, non-transient systems which serve the same population over six months a year, such as schools, factories and hospitals now have to comply with these regulations. Previously, these non-community systems only had to monitor for nitrates and bacteria. EPA's reason to include these systems was "because of regular long-term risks of exposure, might incur long-term risks of adverse health effects similar to those incurred by residential population".
Each public water system will have to take quarterly samples, which will be phased in by system size. Systems serving 10,000 persons or more began monitoring by January 1, 1988; 3,300-10,000 by 1 January 1989; and less than 3,300 have until January 1, 1991. Compliance will be determined by an annual average of the quarterly samples. Repeat monitoring varies from quarterly to once every five years. This is based on whether VOC's have been detected in the initial sample and the vulnerability of the system to contamination. EPA also listed the acceptable analytical methods.
Best Available Technologies are listed by EPA for each MCL for two purposes. First, the SDWA [safe drinking water association] requires the agency to determine the treatment feasibility for meeting an MCL which takes costs into consideration. These costs must be reasonably affordable by regional and large metropolitan public water systems. Thus, the BAT designated treatment is a determining factor in setting the actual level of the MCL.
Second, in order to grant a variance to a public water system the system has to install the BAT treatment.
EPA does not require the use of BAT, or any other technology to meet the MCL's. "Public water systems may use any appropriate technology acceptable to the states that treats all of the water and that results in compliance with the MCL."
EPA listed central granular activated carbon and packed tower aeration as BAT for the VOC's. POE and POU devices are not designated as BAT because:
A state may exempt a public water system from an MCL if due to compelling factors [which may be economic], the system is unable to comply and the exemption will not result in an unreasonable risk to health. The state must prescribe a schedule for compliance. The SDWA requires compliance within one year of issuance of the exemption, however an exemption may be extended to three years. Additionally, the state may renew an exemption for small systems serving less than 500 persons for one or more additional two-year periods.
Under the VOC rule, as a condition of receiving an exemption, the state may require the use of POU devices or bottled water. The same conditions apply as those described for variance.
Please note that EPA stated that "states may require installation of POU devices or distribution of bottled water to each customer as measure to reduce the health risk before granting a variance or exemption."
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