Gold Seal Program: 2010 Update

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As the Water Quality Assn.’s (WQA) Gold Seal Program celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2009, there was no shortage of certification activities, industry issues, new regulations and new research studies. In the 13 years I have worked at WQA, I feel that this has been the association’s most active year, and it all happened in spite of the great recession.

Laboratory Expansion

As WQA was announcing the Gold Seal Program’s Golden Anniversary, the big news was the laboratory construction and expansion project that was scheduled to be complete during the first quarter. Now that expansion is complete, WQA has more than doubled its product testing capacity and increased its testing capabilities so it can handle clients of any size interested in Gold Seal product certification.

The second phase of the lab expansion began at the end of 2009, and includes remodeling and expanding WQA’s second floor to accommodate the product certification and facility assessment staff. Completion of the second phase is slated for the second quarter of 2010.

New Regulations

Brazil. One of the first new regulations that WQA announced was the requirement that products being sold into Brazil as of March 2010 will now have to be certified by an approved agency. The Gold Seal Program quickly responded by signing a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Instituto Falcão Bauer da Qualidade, one of the certification bodies approved by the Brazil government. This MOU can now be used by companies selling into Brazil to comply with the new regulation.

Water Softeners. One of the most significant bills that affected water softener companies in our industry was California’s AB 1366, which relaxed the requirements for towns to ban water softeners. WQA, the Pacific Water Quality Assn. and our lobbyists helped develop a bill that the industry would be able to tolerate. The bill was signed into law in October 2009.

Low Lead. The most recent regulation that our industry is dealing with is California’s AB 1953 and the accompanying Senate bills. This new law states that all products that contact water intended for human consumption must contain less than 0.25% lead. The law is written to ensure products do not contain lead as any part of their formulation; lead leaching is no longer the means to determine safety of the product.

WQA reached out to one of the Gold Seal Program’s Public Health Review Board (PHRB) members for clarification of the law. Gary Yamamoto, P.E., assistant chief, Division of Drinking Water and Environmental Management, California Department of Public Health (CDPH), informed WQA that products that required certification prior to AB 1953 would need to be certified to the new low-lead requirements but that products not required to be certified prior to AB 1953 would only need to demonstrate compliance with AB 1953. All companies should determine how they should comply per their legal department’s recommendations.

International Activities

WQA has also been very active on the international front. One of the tasks that the International Standards and Regulations task force worked on was the development of a list of all standards and regulations, required or voluntary, for every country for which we could find information. This project has been a goal of the task force for several years, so the Gold Seal Program decided to help out and the task is nearly complete. This information will be extremely helpful for companies in the U.S. seeking to enter markets outside North America and for international companies seeking to enter the North American market.

India. WQA established an India Task Force that meets two times per year in different areas of India. This task force provides member companies in India additional incentives to become and remain WQA members.

China and Southeast Asia. WQA’s Gold Seal Program has hired staff in China to help promote the association’s activities and to develop a China task force, as was done in India. Several other WQA members have approached the association to develop a Southeast Asia Task Force to address member concerns for companies located in this region of the world.

Green Task Force

WQA has established a Green Task Force that is looking into the possibility of developing green standards for our industry’s products. WQA’s Gold Seal Program is working closely with industry members to help develop the protocols.

Conclusion

WQA and the Gold Seal Program are proud of the accomplishments and activities of 2009. While enduring one of the country’s biggest recessions, WQA did not cut back on the services offered to members; in fact, it was just the opposite. We thank everyone for their continued support of the association and look forward to a prosperous 2010.

Thomas P. Palkon is director of product certification for the WQA. Palkon can be reached at 630.505.0160 or by e-mail at tpalkon@wqa.org.

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