Arsenic has become a hot topic since the U.S. EPA lowered the maximum contaminant level for drinking water from 50 to 10 ppb. While issues have arisen surrounding how, if and when communities will comply, one company has designed a solution with the individual homeowner’s needs in mind.
When it comes to arsenic, SolmeteX, Inc., a development and manufacturing company, believes what homeowners—and their water treatment dealers—need is a removal program, rather than just a system. The company recently released npXtra, a comprehensive point-of-entry arsenic removal program that provides testing, telephone and web support, and removal and disposal of residuals, in addition to the system itself.
In many cases, it is up to the homeowner to protect drinking water from contaminants. According to the EPA, approximately 15% of Americans rely on private wells for drinking water, which are not subject to EPA standards. In addition, due to lack of funding, some municipalities have been granted extensions for complying with the arsenic rule. The Washington Post recently reported that as many as 10 million people are drinking water that does not meet EPA’s 10-ppb standard. According to SolmeteX CEO Owen Boyd, this is the market for which the npXtra was designed.
“We tried to figure out what constitutes a solution, i.e. a product, in a market like this,” Boyd said. “There are no residential arsenic monitoring systems, so we devised a testing system to be included in our arsenic removal program.”
According to Boyd, you can’t guarantee the system is going to work unless you provide a complete package. The program includes:
State-of-the-art engineered system. The fully instrumented, compact device features two columns for built-in backup, and effectively treats all of the water in the household.
Testing and reporting. npAssure arsenic performance testing is conducted at the SolmeteX labs at the system’s installation and repeated as needed. The npAssure sample kit is sent directly to the homeowner with easy-to-follow instructions, sample bottles and pre-paid, pre-addressed return labels.
Expert telephone and web support. An in-house team of SolmeteX scientists and technical service personnel provides answers to customers’ questions and concerns.
Removal and disposal of arsenic-laden residuals. SolmeteX takes back the spent resin and disposes of it in an environmentally responsible way.
Because the npXtra was engineered by taking an iron chemistry and embedding it into a polymeric material, the system is smaller than most; the material is much more durable; and there is no backwashing, Boyd explained.
“The minute you have to backwash, that means you’re reversing the flow through the columns in order to get particles that are breaking apart in the column, out of the column,” Boyd said. With backwashing, the plumber has to hook up the system to a sewer or septic system to dispose of those particles. “With this system, you don’t have to hook to the discharge at all because it requires no backwash. That’s a monster advantage for the homeowner,” he added.
Because the particles never enter the septic system or sewer, npXtra eliminates the environmental risk of arsenic polluting those environments.
“There are no studies showing how arsenic speciates in a septic environment,” Boyd said. “It could be converted to arsine gas, for all anybody knows, which is deadly.” Similarly, the sewage treatment plant may not be engineered to handle arsenic. “We’ve eliminated that potential,” Boyd added.
Removing Arsenic & Liability
In addition to the benefits npXtra provides the homeowner, it also caters to the needs of the dealer. In working with various dealers, Boyd said he noticed many thought selling arsenic removal systems was too risky.
“A lot of the guys that were installing water softeners in people’s homes didn’t even want to attack the arsenic problem, and the rational was that if something went wrong with the system, they could lose their entire business in a lawsuit,” Boyd explained.
SolmeteX has removed this risk by providing the arsenic removal system within a comprehensive package.
“I believe SolmeteX has the answers to the three main questions about arsenic treatment,” said Russell E. Prescott, P.E., vice president of R.E. Prescott Co., Inc., a manufacturing, distributing and engineering company that manufactures and distrubutes the npXtra program.
According to Prescott, the questions dealers have concerning liability include:
1. Will my employees or I get harmed by handling arsenic treatment equipment?
2. Will my customer be harmed by arsenic poisoning if I install arsenic treatment equipment?
3. Will I be liable for the waste disposal?
The npXtra program physically protects dealers in two ways. “First, the npXtra media is split into two tanks for lighter work,” Prescott said. “And second, they never handle the arsenic mineral. The program uses lighter, smaller replacement tanks, and the mineral is held inside by a screen, which allows the water to drain while holding the mineral safely inside. So, all the dealer needs to do is swap a tank. They do not get hurt by lifting 2-cu-ft mineral tanks to empty them, they never touch the arsenic mineral.”
The testing and reporting component of the program assures the dealer the system is working. SolmeteX keeps records of the tests.
Because SolmeteX will take back the spent resin and dispose of it, the dealer is relieved of any responsibility for the spent media. “So then we remove their risk, and any liability exposure, we take on,” Boyd said.