The latest legislative updates from regional water quality associations
Canadian Association Adapts to Virtual
By Shelley Peters, Executive Director, Canadian Water Quality Association, [email protected]
The Canadian Water Quality Association (CWQA) started 2020 like a lamb and it finished like a lion. Like many other associations, it was a year like no other. January started with strong committees and promises of changes. Then, the declaration of a pandemic sent everyone into a tailspin.
CWQA rallied and reached out to all levels of government (federal, provincial, local) to ensure that CWQA members were indeed considered essential workers to continue to provide the necessary potable water to all Canadians. Events were canceled, and a move and focus to online or virtual events was quickly put to the test with CWQA’s Annual General Meeting held virtually for the first-time ever. The passing of the gavel proved to be more challenging, but Paul Ethier transferred the presidency to Donald Cipollone with a virtual handshake.
With the tools in place to do things virtually, CWQA reached out to industry experts to assist in providing training material via webinars and the online series of training events started. Mike Weatherill of Purolite started off with Basics of Water Chemistry; Kelly Thompson of Moti-Vitality shared his experience with Successful Sales Techniques; Jim Smith of Good Water Warehouse delved into All Things RO; Bill Beedle of Canature WaterGroup used his 30-plus years of experience to cover Water Softener Sizing; Jason Jackson (aka Professor H20) of Fleming College started the series Proper Installation Practices Explained (P.I.P.E) with the first three sessions and will finish the last two at the 2021 virtual Annual Conference.
Consultation began with the Ministry of Government and Consumer Services of Ontario on changes to the Consumer Protection Act to provide feedback and continue the work started back in 2016. This change is not only to protect consumers, but to help showcase the good work that the CWQA members do each and every day.
Although a global pandemic was consuming everyone’s work and personal lives, CWQA members donned their masks, gloves, hand sanitizer and COVID-19 protocol checklists to continue to provide quality water for all Canadians. The necessary protocols have not changed in 2021 and vaccines are slowly rolling out, but the work that the CWQA members do is still essential.
Eastern Water Quality Professionals Meet Increased Safety Challenges
By Marianne Metzger, Executive Director, Eastern Water Quality Association, [email protected]
This past year was challenging for everyone for so many reasons. The pandemic caused many problems in various industries, such as the restaurant and entertainment industries, which came to a screeching halt before they were able to pivot and offer other options, such as pick-up/delivery for restaurants or online concerts. While many businesses were adversely impacted by the pandemic and the various states of shutdown that occurred as a result, it seems the water industry thrived.
Thanks to the fast action from the Water Quality Association, the water quality industry was deemed as essential, so during shutdowns water treatment businesses continued to operate. Not unlike most businesses, they had to pivot from some previous practices — which may have had them going door-to-door to generate leads — and put into place protocols to help protect workers and the public. Water treatment dealers scrambled to get masks, hand sanitizers and other protective gear to help reassure employees and clients that they were taking the recommended precautions.
Obviously, not all dealers experienced the pandemic the same. Dealers close to New York City experienced a higher level of concern and interruption to business than dealers who were located in rural areas. Tim Van Overloop of NMP Water Systems located in Northern New Jersey, close to New York City — an epicenter of the outbreak early on — experienced uncertainty in the beginning of the pandemic with 80 to 90% of his installations and service calls canceling overnight.
“It was very eerie to say the least. Almost everyone was on ‘lockdown’ with businesses, restaurants, offices, schools, etc. all closed,” Van Overloop said. “There were reports everyday of the virus spreading rapidly and people in hospitals and nursing homes dying in droves. The normally packed, busy roads were dead empty and everyone was frightened in a way that I’ve only witnessed a glimmer here when 9/11 hit 20 years ago.”
While Van Overloop experienced some tough situations, he continued to help his customers even going to the extent of wearing a Haz-mat suit with multiple masks, face shield, gloves etc, covered head to toe, to perform a simple reverse osmosis maintenance call for a customer undergoing cancer treatment with a compromised immune system. While times were a bit rough, NMP Water Systems persevered and came out the other side stronger and more resilient than ever.
In rural Pennsylvania, Negley’s Clean Water Center experienced the pandemic a bit differently. While they had some cancellations, much of their business remained intact.
“The global pandemic in 2020 and beyond has presented Negley’s Water with a myriad of challenges as well as opportunities,” said Trent Stumbaugh, vice president of Water Treatment for Negley’s. “Our organization focused first on the safety of our team members and our customers, which meant we had to slow down to some extent and take many extra precautions. However, once our team and our customers felt relatively safe, our business was able to grow and thrive in the midst of unprecedented uncertainty. Therefore, we feel very confident in the prospects of the water quality industry moving into the foreseeable future.”
Stumbaugh indicated that Negley’s offered customers virtual sales appointments and contact free options, but many of his customers were satisfied with the additional safety protocols, including masks, frequent hand washing/sanitizing and social distancing.
While the pandemic continues to affect and change our everyday lives, businesses must keep moving forward and water treatment is no exception. Many dealers across the EWQA territory have taken the pandemic as an opportunity and experienced significant growth in their businesses. Now, the industry is facing other issues that is a result of the pandemic such as supply chain issues with certain products like tanks, resins and valves. Additionally, costs are being driven up due to hikes in transportation costs and short supplies, so these increases are going to be passed along to the consumer. There is no other business so critical to living than providing clean drinking water, which is a big reason our industry thrived instead of just survived this pandemic.
Texas Association Continues Legislative Efforts
By Daina Grace, Executive Director, Texas Water Quality Association, [email protected]
The 87th Texas Legislative session began on January 12, 2021, and concluded on May 31, 2021. The Texas Water Quality Association’s (TWQA) Legislative Consultant has been on the front lines during the session making sure that the rights of the TWQA members are not affected by proposed legislation. TWQA believes it is a priority to defend against legislative efforts to change Title 12, Subtitle A, Chapter 1904 of the Texas Occupation Code. The TWQA consultant will continue to monitor and report accordingly.
The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) approved online training for its licensing programs due to COVID-19 restrictions. This allowed TWQA to provide the Water Treatment Specialist courses online to individuals needing CEU hours as well as first time licensees. The online approval was conditional and will be reevaluated. It is our hope that TCEQ will recognize the benefit and continue with the online platform.
On January 1, 2021, the Education Committee for TWQA submitted new training material for both of the state-required courses under the Water Treatment Specialist Licensing program. This was a result of several years of discussion with the TCEQ. The manuals are in the final stages of review and we hope to have the new material approved and ready for presentation soon. TCEQ will be updating the WTS exams as well.
TWQA’s Legal and Governmental Committee and Legislative Consultant met virtually with Toby Baker, executive director of TCEQ, in an effort to address some of the issues affecting dealers in Texas, namely backflow requirements, recognition of the WTS license by municipalities and addressing hurdles for first time licensees. The committee will continue to work with TCEQ in an effort to resolve these issues.
Our members initially joined together to secure their right to install water treatment equipment professionally and without excessive cost to the consumer. We continue to work today as a unified entity, even if we are competitors in the marketplace, to provide a well-trained, professional workforce that benefits not only our association members, but all citizens in the state of Texas.
To submit additional questions, comments or future regional updates, please email the WQP editorial team at [email protected].