What’s that Noise in the Basement?

Looking at the exterior of the brown two-story building known as the Water Quality Association (WQA) headquarters, you would expect to see the standard components of an office building inside. That’s right—the usual cubicles, computers, copy machines, conference rooms and hard-working employees—are all here. Just another boring office, but wait, what’s that noise coming from the basement? Oh that, sorry, I forgot to mention that there is a state-of-the-art product-testing laboratory in the basement of this modest office building.

Behind the Scenes

WQA’s product testing and analytical laboratory has been “making noise in the basement” at its current location since 1982. Although WQA’s laboratory has gone through many changes since then, the one constant has been its production of quality independent third-party test data.

A majority of the testing conducted by the WQA lab is used for product certification through WQA’s Gold Seal Product Certification Program according to the NSF/ANSI Drinking Water Treatment Unit (DWTU) (42, 44, 53, 55, 58, 62 and 177) and Drinking Water Additive (60 and 61) standards, but WQA also performs R&D testing as well as testing to other protocols for water-related products.

Initially, the WQA laboratory tested water softeners according to industry standards, but since then, it has grown in size and scope to test any type of water treatment product, component or chemical. Whether they are water softeners, water filters (POE or POU), reverse osmosis units, UV filters, distillers or pour-through pitchers—WQA has the expertise to perform the testing.

Testing 24/7

WQA’s laboratory never sleeps. There’s always water flowing, pumps pumping, valves opening and closing, samples collecting and instruments analyzing. Each NSF/ANSI DWTU standard requires different operating cycles for testing, but tests run in WQA’s laboratory 24 hours a day.

To lighten the burden of 24-hour testing, WQA developed its own state-of-the-art automated test benches with auto samplers to ensure that samples are collected at the required times and the other requirements of the standard are met. With the click of a button, WQA’s laboratory analysts can fill or drain a challenge tank, mix or switch a challenge tank, and collect influent or effluent samples. The automation is a tremendous help to WQA’s laboratory analysts, but most importantly, it helps WQA keep testing costs at a minimum.

Each DWTU standard requires pressure testing for products connected to a pressurized water supply. The pressure testing ensures that products will maintain structural integrity during normal use, as well as during water hammer events (pressure surges).

Expansion

The automation of the laboratory has also spread to WQA’s Structural Integrity Room, where all pressure testing occurs. Cycle, hydrostatic and burst testing are all controlled at a centralized control panel, where testing is performed by entering the desired parameters and letting the computer program do the rest.

Even though the automated test benches are extremely convenient, they cannot be used for every testing project. For that reason, WQA maintains “manual” test benches for projects that require special needs. One of the test benches that has not gone through the automation process is the POE filter test bench. The POE filter test bench is used for whole-house filters that have high flow rates and claim large reduction capacities. In order to meet the requirements of industry standards, the bench utilizes chemical feed pumps to inject the appropriate chemicals into municipally supplied water. A typical test at the POE filter test bench runs for 16 hours a day for 30 days (100,000 to 300,000 gal depending on flow rate), but can be used for larger reduction capacities. One test at WQA’s POE filter test bench lasted for over six months (more than 1.5 million gal).

The WQA laboratory has recently completed the construction of a Materials Extraction Room, where all materials extraction testing can be performed. In this room, extraction testing according to the NSF/ANSI 42, 44, 53, 55, 58, 60, 61 and 62 standards can be safely performed without concern of contamination.

The automation and renovation of the WQA laboratory helps to ensure that it meets its goal of increasing the efficiency of product testing while decreasing cost. WQA provides exceptional service, competitive pricing, and most importantly, reliable, defensible test results.

If you have product testing needs, are looking for a refreshing alternative to your current testing laboratory, or just want to add to the noise coming from the basement, try WQA’s laboratory. You will enjoy the WQA experience.

Mark T. Unger, CWS-VI, is laboratory supervisor for the Water Quality Association. He can be reached at 630.505.0160, or by e-mail at munger@mail.wqa.org.

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