Op-Ed: Risk Reduction Solutions From a Small Business Viewpoint

May 11, 2020

The following is an opinion piece authored by Andrew Zeigler, president of Waterline Technology. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely his own.

About the author:

Andrew Zeigler is president of Waterline Technology. Zeigler can be reached at [email protected] or 419.529.3710.

Editor's Note: Andrew Zeigler is president of Waterline Technology. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely his own.

Any and all testing is similar to a photograph ... it is a snapshot in time that will most likely never repeat itself. When you are trying to find solutions for any problem, one generally wants to see the data. The scientific community thrives on testing and the accumulation of data. They present graphs, charts, spreadsheets–all built around their premise designed to prove their theory. Hopefully their premise is correct, or the data collection will not solve the problem at hand. While this data is important and necessary to prove a premise, it does little to solve the problem. Action rather than inaction is the real solution that can be implemented without expecting 100% compliance of society. Elimination of risk cannot be accomplished by testing and can only be accomplished with viable solutions to the problem.

Testing & Data Collection

This current pandemic, due to COVID-19 transmission is causing serious and mild pneumonia that affects primarily, the high-risk population. It has resulted in overwhelming statistical data and fear that is seemingly designed to test every person to determine exposure of the COVID-19 virus.

Billions of dollars will be spent to facilitate this testing and data collection to justify the expense. Now we hear rumors of testing requirements for workers returning to their jobs and possible requiring a test certificate stating a negative test. However, since testing is a snapshot in time it can lead one to a false sense of security. If their test is negative and they have dodged the bullet or if positive and it becomes a death sentence. Worse yet, a false positive or false negative. It is not a solution to the problem, just a snapshot it time. Testing does not guarantee that one cannot contract the virus in the future.

Legionella is currently one of the leading air-borne contaminants. It can result in contracting legionellosis, a form of atypical pneumonia caused by any type of legionella bacteria. Signs and symptoms include coughing, shortness of breath, high fever, muscle pains and headaches. Nausea, vomiting and diarrhea may also occur. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has seen a six-fold increase in outbreaks since 2000- 2018 which affects the same high-risk population as COVID-19. It is spread when the water is converted to an aerosol and it enters the lungs. This can result in pneumonia and even death. While it is not transmitted person-to-person, it is in most water supplies. If not treated, it can grow inside of potable plumbing systems in homes, buildings and cooling towers.

While the problem is large there, is no current federal regulation requiring testing for legionella bacteria in potable premise water systems. It is assumed the current disinfection systems in public water will control the organism. However, worldwide legionella continues to be a major health issue. While the industry continues to find solutions to remove or kill this bacteria and other pathogens in our potable water plumbing systems (homes, building, factories) environmental testing is not mandated by state, federal or local laws with few exceptions. Thank goodness there is diagnostic and treatment when discovered early enough, but if contracted by the high-risk population it can result in death of patient.

What is the Solution?

So, what is the solution? When faced with environmental challenges that affect one’s health and wellbeing we need to look at the probability verses the costs of taking the necessary action to reduce the risk to you and your family. In my 35-plus years as a manufacturer of drinking, ingredient and process water, we continue to provide water filtration and disinfection solutions, which solve or reduce the risk from these pathogens and opportunistic organisms that cause respiratory illnesses. Regardless of the industry, whether it is for home or business, the question of testing before investing in a solution is high on the radar for the final decision maker. If the test is negative, then they are reluctant to invest in water or air treatment and are surprised to later learn the problem re-occurs.

Testing can identify the environmental problem if the sample size is large enough and the environmental factors remain constant. This is rarely the case since we live in a changing world where our water and air are constantly challenged and impacted by natural disasters, infrastructure failures, pollution, human error, terrorist threats and more. While testing is required to validate the solution and to start with a base line for engineering the solutions for these environmental challenges the proactive reduction of the risk factors will most times solve the problem. For our customers, it is water filtration/disinfection treatment specific to the problem at hand. We design validation controls to ensure the performance is solving the problems.

Environmental risk factors are impossible to eliminate without the ending the source of the problem. If that is not possible, then providing proactive solutions to reduce the impact when exposure exists is the solution. Whether it is protecting and safeguarding our source water and air to support life on this planet, constant improvements to quality control of our food chain, education or discovery of vaccines. Remediation solutions that protect and increase life expectancy is the real answer. A healthier lifestyle to reduce unnecessary health cost, start with addressing obesity, diabetes and other underlying issues that contribute and impact this high-risk population.

While I am not a scientist or a doctor, I strongly rely on common sense approaches to solve problems for my customers with solutions that have been validated for their intended purpose to existing industry standards. This provides them with solutions to protect their water from the unknown, while improving their lifestyle and the health of their water in homes and businesses. It is important to bear in mind that testing for these unknown environmental factors does not solve the problem. It is only when proactive actions are implemented that one can reduce the risk factors.

Proactive Solutions

Education is key for one’s understanding that these environmental factors exist and taking action to reduce the risk is the real solution. For our customers, it simply involves installation of a barrier of protection they can afford to reduce the risk to their drinking, ingredient and process water. To reduce their reliance on government or industry to protect their family, product or brand i.e., filtration of their drinking water and potable water needs.

This current pandemic will be solved not by isolationism, cloth masks, social distancing or COVID-19 testing, but by diagnostics and treatment. Proactive solutions and improvements of one’s lifestyle and improvements to the air and water quality in our home and businesses. COVID-19 treatment and vaccines will be developed, but will not eliminate the disease going forward. As the vaccines are never 100% effective. The protection of our water and air to reduce these risks guarantee that future pandemics and environmental issues affecting our water and air will not cause disruptions to our economy, lifestyles and enjoyment of life. This is not a problem that can be managed by government alone, but by the commitment of all people of this planet to take responsibility for their actions.

About the Author

Andrew Zeigler