Skip to content

Topic 2: Foster development of new drinking water technologies to address health risks posed by a broad array of contaminants.

2010 July 29

We want to build on the solid foundation laid by EPA water scientists and engineers and engage innovators in developing the next generation of drinking water technology. We plan to collaborate with universities, technology developers, and other stakeholders to accelerate development and adoption of treatment technologies. We particularly want to focus on the specific challenges and issues facing smaller systems and rural areas.

  • What technological approaches and contaminants will confront utilities in the future? Are there technologies EPA should consider for small systems?
  • Have you or your organization identified critical elements that should be included in developing innovative drinking water technologies, especially for small systems?  
  • Have you or your organization been involved in developing treatment technologies that can cost-effectively and reliably reduce health risks, through control of a broad suite of contaminants?
  • What are the driving factors utilities consider when evaluating technologies that could address broad arrays of multiple contaminants in large and small systems? 
  • What is needed to convince the public and the private sector to invest in advanced drinking water technologies?

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

23 Responses leave one →
  1. Thomas Pokorsky permalink
    August 17, 2010

    There are many technology providers spending millions to develop new technologies for both current and proposed future regulations. However it is extremely difficult to convince a utility to try the new technology because of their fear of failure or simply because the state regulatory agency will not allow it. In addition there are no formal programs to prove the technology. Some states reluctantly allow a trial while many otheres will not even consider it. In most states there are no formal programs in place to evaluate the technologies. This undertaking must absolutely involve the state rgulators or it will not accomplish its goal. The EPA should also consider some sort of program that would give utilities/ municipalities some sort of “break” if they try a technology and it does not work well. This could involve a simple forgiveness of any violations they may be facing due to the failed technology to some sort of grant to replace the technology if it doesn’t work properly. This could be similar to the 1980’s I&A programs. In any event the development of technology is not as big of a problem as the ability to get it tried and ultimately into the marketplace.

  2. prisoner of war permalink
    August 17, 2010

    http://www.epa.gov/glnpo/basicinfo.html

    http://www.epa.gov/waters/tmdldocs/WVMonogohelaReport.pdf

    When Mathias Bowser, Jr. leaglly entered Pennsylvania in 1733 and son Michael Bowser 04-15-1787, Greene County, Pennsylvania, and son David Bowser 12-09-1823,Greene County, Pennsylvania. I know the water was safe for David Bowser to drink, and for David to consume aquatic life from the Monongahela River as well as Ten Mile Creek were he lived. Not to mention air quality that he breathed. Also, lets not forget ruining the greatest wealth the U.S.A ever had, the great lakes. U.S.A. the world’s largest national economy, what a terrible mistake.

  3. Kristin permalink
    August 18, 2010

    I work at an EPA certified environmental testing lab. Specifically, I work in the Organic Chemistry section where we mostly run SDWA drinking water 500 series methods. We’ve done a little method development involving pharmaceuticals and I wonder if these compounds could be implemented into regular testing along with the pesticides/herbicides/PAH’s etc. that are currently regulated. I don’t know how much work it takes to approve these methods but there are a lot of good methods out there and would like to see EPA really look into this class of contaminants. There is a lot of evidence that it is a big part of future of environmental testing.

  4. Fred Tepper permalink
    August 19, 2010

    Over the past ten years our company has developed a drinking water filter (NanoCeram) that is highly electropositive. It is capable of retaining high levels of bacteria and virus at high rates of flow and with high dirt holding capacity. It has equal or better efficiency at retaining particulates than ultraporous membranes except that it has about two orders of magnitude higher flow and higher dirt holding capacity. One version of the filter is in a device that was developed by a major Indian company (Eureka Forbes) for those users that have no source of running water or power. The Korean EPA is testing another version of our filter for use in purifying ground water for small villages. The testing so far is highly successful. Our filters also serve to protect RO and extend cleaining cycles, while reducing costs of filter replacement and minimizing the use of chemicals for membrane treatment. Further work in developing the filter has led to the incorporation of a bacteriastatic control. Another on-going effort is aimed at regenerating the filter. The result is that our filter is growing into the POU/POE, industrial and small municipal sectors.

  5. Ivars Jaunakais permalink
    August 19, 2010

    My wife and I in our home now drink filtered tapwater. At one time we used to bring home gallon containers of bottle water. WHy the change? We became informed with this logic: The microbiological quality of tap water (municipal treated drinking water) is known to be very good; and that is why our tap water contains chlorine. But we do not want to drink chloinated water. Another concern was that the pipes that delivery our water to our home (many miles) and our metal tap water fixtures would leach out metals such as Lead, Copper, Zinc, Nickel, and others. We have found that a POU (Point Of Use) filter (charcoal) that removes the chlorine and the metals gives us water that tastes good and makes great coffee in the morning. We are happy with our water now! Labortory testing of our filtered water has confirmed our drinking water is meat and chlorine free. We are happy.

  6. Mike Macdonald permalink
    August 19, 2010

    I work as an independent Cross-Connection Control (Xcon) consultant and have been retained by numerous Small Water System Operators, ranging from a ten-unit mobile home trailer park to , arguably, one of the world’s largest winery operations – both of these examples are defined in State statutes as Small Public Water Systems.

    The fundamental problem that I have observed is that Fed/State Xcon regulations (for the most part) define backflow prevention at the Water Meter/Point(s) of Connection(s) to a Public Distribution System.

    However, in the case of a Small System, the entire internal system IS the public distribution system (usual water source is an on-site water well). As an Xcon consultant, it’s my job to make observations and provide backflow prevention recommendations regarding each piece of on-site water-connected equipment and associated plumbing infrastructure.

    In this context, one is operating in the realm of the local Plumbing Code rather than “Containment Backflow Protection at the Meter.”

    In my view, Fed/State regulations do not adequately address the special needs of Cross-Connection Control for Small Systems and, therefore, many Small System Water Customers are not being protected against potential drinking water contamination due to uncontrolled cross-connections.

  7. John M. Ackerman, M.D. permalink
    August 20, 2010

    Potable Water Forum-Applies to parts 2,3 and 4

    EPA has historically researched and Regulated the chemical aspects of water Emergent Contaminants of Concern (ECC) but not the biological water Contaminants of Concern. Now, the most potentially dangerous and, therefore, urgent areas of concern are the multi-antibiotic resistant organisms. This must be priority No. 1. re: preservation of Public Health.

    The international medical, water and biological literature includes pertinent research by various authors including EPA scientist, Meckes (1982) documenting that:
    – water at the end of wastewater treatment processes and later at the points of use (POU) cultures out multi-antibiotic organisms that are potentially dangerous to Public Health. The use of single indicator testing is antiquated because it does not accurately reflect the universe of pathogens, especially those existing in water requiring high level disinfection.
    -contamination of potable water is, in large part, due to insufficient high level disinfection by wastewater treatment facilities of a.) recycled water (which leaves multi-antibiotic resistant organisms and their genetic fragments in agricultural ground) and b.) biosolids with the same contamination both washed off by stormwater from agricultural and/or pasture lands into river tributaries and aqueducts carrying wastewater treatment plant processed water to disinfection facilities which produce potable water.
    -there is no Regulated testing or culturing of chlorinated water at the points of use even though the literature documents that chlorine can:
    -increase resistance and virulence of some organisms and
    -shock ( kill or arrest) multi-antibiotic resistant organisms which often revive after a period of time.
    -organisms need not be killed by chlorine because it is their genetic fragments that transfer the resistance to our normal intestinal tract organisms (see Griffith, 1928)
    -it only takes a tiny genetic fragment to transfer the resistance and/or virulence to the normal organisms in our intestinal tracts. Once transferred, the medical use of antibiotics may not be able to kill or arrest organisms already in our systems that have initiated serious infectious disease both in immune compromised people or even people with normal functioning immune systems. This genetic fragment phenomenon is not characterized as a dose-response issue.
    – filtering the disinfected water with pores small enough to remove the tiny genetic fragments exactly at the points of use is essential.
    – culturing the multi-antibiotic resistant organisms must take place at the points of use after the above filtering and before the distribution to points of use.
    -it is essential that Federal and State Regulations for both wastewater treatment plants and disinfection facilities (just prior to points of use) be upgraded to deal effectively with the above sanitization of potable water.
    -Federal and State Regulations must convert to new cutting edge technologies that upgrade the processes of wastewater treatment plants by incinerating and therebye removing the contaminated biosolids suspended in wastewater prior to entering wastewater facilities. The incineration produces a methane type gas that can be used to power other equipment or be sold. Strategic metals can be recovered from the ash. Such new technology will usually create a profitable bottom line. The footprint of the plant will be substantially smaller.
    -the above type filters must be manufactured and utilized prior to the distribution of potable water.
    – the understanding of the culturing for multi-antibiotic organisms and the need both for a.)the above types of cutting edge wastewater treatment plants and b.) the creation and utilization for the above filters will definitely help the public and private sectors to invest in advanced drinking water technologies (for example,MicroMediaFiltration: 949-380-9800; info@mmfwater.com).
    – CDC and Public Health must be part of the initiation of upgraded Regulatory requirements.

  8. anderson, marc permalink
    August 21, 2010

    I think one of the most appealing new technologies in water treatment is capacitive deionization as it offers the opportunity to process water and save energy simultaneously. Although we are working in this field, I think more money should be spent by both the public and private sector on this process.

    Marc Anderson
    Prof and Chair
    Environmental Chemistry and Technology Program
    University of Wisconsin – Madison
    660 N. Park St.
    Madison, WI 53706

  9. William Roman permalink
    August 24, 2010

    In addition to focusing on drinking water treatment technologies, EPA should consider means to reduce drinking water consumption for uses such as flushing toilets.

    Flush toilets are the main source of domestic water use and account for approximately 27 percent of an average home’s indoor water consumption (EPA, 2008). On average, Americans use about 18.5 gallons of water per day to flush toilets (Clemens and others, 2009). A leaky toilet may waste more than 200 gallons every day (EPA, 2008).

    Compost toilets are an inexpensive alternative to conventional flush toilets. A compost toilet is a water-free device for the collection of human wastes, which are thermophilically composted to create soil fertilizer. A compost toilet is easy to construct, and a bathroom can be easily retrofitted with one. Use of compost toilets is an effective way to conserve water resources, reduce wastewater generation, and preserve water quality.

    Compost toilets and humanure sanitation are described in The Humanure Handbook, 3rd ed. (2005) by Joseph Jenkins:

    http://humanurehandbook.com/index.html

    References cited:

    Clemens, Stephanie S., Swistock, Bryan, and Sharpe, William E., 2009, A Guide to private water systems in Pennsylvania: Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences. http://pubs.cas.psu.edu/FreePubs/pdfs/agrs111.pdf

    U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, June 2008, Indoor water use in the United States: EPA-832-F-06-004 http://www.epa.gov/watersense/docs/ws_indoor508.pdf

  10. Stan Seelig permalink
    August 25, 2010

    My start-up company is currently looking for funding in order to eliminate excessive water usage for laundry, dishwasher and possibly toilets, which comprises greater than 50% of home water use ( and larger amounts found in institutional markets). We are looking to develop green solvents and ionic liquids to promote a “dry” cleaning concept that uses no water. We have already begun the partnering process with laundry equipment and detergent manufacturers. It appears that institutional markets in the US would be most interested as well as consumers in countries where drinking water resources are the lowest.

    I believe by cutting back our drinking water uses where possible minimizes our wastewater streams which allows for better treatments. The average American uses 100 gal/water per day where Europeans are closer to half that amount. I also believe that if people had indoor monitors of the water (and energy) usage, that in itself would help us to conserve. Gray water (from rain water) should also be used for watering lawns/gardens, car washing, and other non-essential uses. Drinking water should attempt to be limited to drinking, cooking, minimal cleaning, bathing and other personal uses.

    I am not sure where developing new technologies that minimize water usage falls under but this should be an important part of our future drinking water strategies. My name is Stan Seelig and I am a chemist who has been working with water and solvent-based cleaning formulations for over 30 years. I can be further contacted at SSSeelig@aol.com.

  11. Michael Green permalink
    August 26, 2010

    I am a PE working with a consulting firm based in Florida. We assist water systems as they evaluate their vulnerabilities and the mitigation options available to them. Preserving the quality of our drinking water is always one of the available to them top two or three priorities in any community water system’s mission statement. As we all know, there are many ways our drinking water can be contaminated, either accidentally or intentionally. Much of the focus for the past ten years has been on technologies and procedures that deal with the “RESPONSE” to a contamination event. Much less attention has been given to possible “PREVENTION” technologies or tactics.

    This is not to suggest that no money has been spent on prevention. Hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent on hardening the security of our water supply as well as our treatment plants. The one element of our drinking water infrastructure that has not been aggressively addressed is the security of the distribution system – the residential connections and fire hydrants. Once downstream of the treatment plant, in the distribution lines, our water has no more treatment opportunities. And the distribution system can not rely upon the “dilution” effect due to the relatively small volume of water in the pipes.

    CERL labs, the research arm of Army Corps of Engineers, recently concluded that the distribution system (residential connections and fire hydrants) is the most vulnerable element of our drinking water infrastructure today. This view is also shared by the University of Florida Center for Training, Research and Education for Environmental Occupations (TREEO). TREEO trains water industry folks across the Southeast. Several other agencies also recognize the growing vulnerability of the Distribution System.

    I agree with Mr Pokosky’s comments that many millions are being spent developing new technologies – with many new products having been brought to market in the past five years. I would add to Mr Pokosky’s thought that water utilities’ hesitance to implement new technologies may also be caused by budget concerns. In these tight economic times, it is hard to get support for retrofitting backflow preventers on residential connections or protecting hydrants against backflow when revenues are done so much.

    Availability of grants will significantly help communities implement new prevention and protection technologies. But again, most grants offered in the past several years have focussed on “communication” or “response”. Not many grants offer help to the community that wants to prevent or protect from a contamination event.

    I was President of the North Carolina Chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers back in the 1980’s. We had workshops back then about the importance of protecting our water systems from contamination events. Much has been done since those days … but much more is needed. I am hopeful EPA can lead in making new technologies available that will address all elements of the Drinking Water infrastructure.

    Michael C Green, P. E.

  12. Pat Whalen permalink
    August 26, 2010

    In many applications, we are starting to see a tiered approach to risk management. For example, the food hygiene sector uses rapid microbiological testing to determine the cleanliness of their production lines and address issues as they arise in near real-time. When samples come back being positive for total count, the offending areas are immediately cleaned and often the sample is further characterized to identify the specific threat. This combination of immediate corrective and follow-up preventive action is based on the Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) protocol and has the very same level of applicability to drinking water systems. There have been some ISO protocols drafted along these lines, but nothing has yet been put into practice.

  13. Pat Whalen permalink
    August 26, 2010

    No matter what treatment processes are developed in the future, we need to have better monitoring to quantify their efficacy in protecting us against the many threats to public health. As the old saying goes, ‘if you don’t monitor it, you cannot control it’.

    A good example is the food hygiene sector. In this application, rapid microbiological testing is used to determine the cleanliness of their production lines and address issues as they arise in near real-time. When samples come back being positive for total count, the offending areas are immediately cleaned and often the sample is further characterized to identify the specific threat. This combination of immediate corrective and follow-up preventive action is based on the Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) protocol and has the very same level of applicability to drinking water systems.

  14. Keith Jones permalink
    August 31, 2010

    I agree with both Messrs. Green’s and Pokosky’s comments regarding the distribution system and cross connection control / backflow prevention being a primary concern. One being the target; the other the means to prosecute an attack. Cross connections and backflow prevention were mentioned in the Wall Street Journal (12/27/2001) as a primary and potentially unpreventable means of attack as early as three months after the attacks of 9/11 by Mr. John Sullivan, who at the time was the Chief Engineer for the Boston Water & Sewer Commission and the President of the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies. Mr. Sullivan said, “Our reservoirs are really well protected. Our water-treatment plants can be surrounded by cops and guards. But if there’s an intentional attempt to create a backflow, there’s no way to totally prevent it.” Since that time several other agencies and professional organizations including DHS, FBI, AWWA and the GAO have published papers and documents repeating and/or verifying the same conclusions. Also, several companies have made significant strides in developing technologies to greatly reduce this vulnerability, and with proper funding more drinking water systems would take advantage of their technologies. I personally work with numerous drinking water systems across the western United States much like Mr. Green describes his activities in Florida. There are several systems out here, including one of the nation’s largest, that are in the process of addressing this issue, which is unprotected residential connections and the systems’ own fire hydrants. I encourage EPA, DHS, and other like agencies to consider prevention as the first line of defense and fund it accordingly. If an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure as the adage goes, then it just makes sense to start there, both from a practical and financial standpoint. Most of the papers and documents referenced above can be found online – many are posted on this website http://www.watersecurity.us

  15. Dwayne Hobbs permalink
    August 31, 2010

    As the Chairman of the All Hazards Council in metro-Atlanta, our public safety disciplines have tried diligently to educate police, fire public health and other pubic safety personnel about the potential risks that exist at the distribution points. I am still disappointed with how little information is reaching the first responders about the vulnerabilities of our water supplies. Police are still in the dark about the danger of people criminally contaminating the water supply and officers often drive past contractors, landscapers and homeowners legally tapping the hydrants and not verifying their intentions or credentials. It is most difficult to educate the public without creating a panic, or worse, sharing the vulnerability with our own domestic terrorist, disgruntled employees or irritated spouses. This seems to be one of those hazards that does not get the needed attention until a disaster happens, then we wonder why no one was paying attention.

  16. Liz Wessing permalink
    September 1, 2010

    To add to the above comment there are emerging technologies that are real-time, early warning systems that, while they may not have the capability of alerting to the contamination of a specific species, they can group it into a category such as rod-shaped, spore-shaped, etc. These systems do not replace traditional tests but, by constantly monitoring for a broader category of contaminates they allow users to reduce the need for daily, weekly, monthly grab samples at various points throughout a distribution system. A system that automatically samples when a contamination alert is triggered could save on repeated lab testing. To continue from the above comment; when followed by a combination of immediate corrective action such as increased chlorination or filtration as recommended by the plant operator and follow-up preventive action based on the Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) protocol utilities can reduce the time of contamination to public alert when needed and most likely be better positioned to protect to health and safety of the community.

  17. Eric Madsen permalink
    September 3, 2010

    Which technologies to foster will depend upon the perceptions of the harm of withdrawing water and impact of pollution from the discharge of water. The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) is writing a water footprint standard that will probably be referenced to quantify the harm of withdrawing water and discharging polluted water. Everyone who has concerns over this international evaluation of the impact of water withdrawal and pollutants discharged to water should voice their opinion. To participate in the writing of ISO 14046 Water footprint – Requirements and Guidelines, please contact the US administrator of the activity: standards@asq.org.

  18. Mindy Panunzio permalink
    September 4, 2010

    Small technology is the way to go!

    My City of Malibu needs to address its wastewater treatment problem. For a host of reasons, Malibu, which consists of 21 miles of scenic, geologically fragile mountains and coastline, does not have a centralized wastewater system and almost all of its 7,000 or so homes have onsite wastewater treatment systems (septic systems). Recently, regional water officials prohibited septic systems from operating in the first of many discrete Malibu areas and are requiring the City to implement a centralized system. The City estimates that the cost for the first centralized wastewater treatment system serving only 400-500 homes will be $52 million. Affected homeowners will pay from $500 to $1,000 per month and commercial users will pay significantly more. Even for Malibu, a notoriously affluent community, the cost to implement this first phase plan is staggering. Malibu is desperately seeking alternatives.

    We need smaller technology. The centralized wastewater system, like the system for delivery of water, is antiquated. Just as it would be crazy to build a wired system for telephones in say, Africa, when wireless technology is now available, it would be crazy (e.g., energy wasteful and expensive) for the City of Malibu to build an infrastructure to collect sewage, transport it over difficult terrain and treat it in a centralized place before discharging it and smaller technology provides the answer.

    Septic system technology has not progressed all that much in the past 100 years. As wastewater from the home flows into the septic tank, the heavier solid materials settle to the bottom (forming a sludge layer), the lighter greases and fats float to the top (forming a scum layer), and the liquid (sewage effluent) flows out of the tank. An outlet baffle (or a sanitary tee at the outlet end) prevents solids from flowing out with the liquids. The tank’s primary purpose is to retain the solids while releasing sewage effluent to the drainfield. As I understand it, the real so called “treatment” of the wastewater occurs in the soil beneath the drainfield. Sewage effluent flows out of the tank as a cloudy liquid that still contains many biological and chemical pollutants, flows into the perforated pipe in the trenches, passes through the holes in the pipe, and then trickles down through the gravel into the soil. As effluent enters and flows through the soil, some of the bacteria are filtered out, and some viruses, and certain of the chemicals, including phosphorus and some forms of nitrogen are absorbed by the soil. Unfortunately in Malibu and around the country, soil-based systems (with a leach or drain field) are often installed at sites with inadequate or inappropriate soils, excessive slopes or high ground water table. These conditions cause hydraulic failures and consequently water resource contamination. This is happening in Malibu and all across the country.

    What if septic systems were turned into individual alternate wastewater treatment plants? Consider the technology developed by Dean Kamen for Slingshot http://gloobts.com/site/random-thoughts/4315-dean-kamens-water-purification-system-by-deka-research

    Although the public may not be ready to drink reclaimed effluent, use of the purified water for irrigation and other uses would be a no-brainer. In any event, if the effluent was adequately filtered before it was discharged; it would eliminate the contamination which is of primary concern of stakeholders and regional water quality control boards across the county. Just consider what it would mean if wastewater purification systems were put in place on a large scale. Millions of home septic systems could be put to work to clean rather than to contaminate our aquifers and save water at that same time. If the effluent treatment could be accomplished in an energy and cost-efficient manner, the benefits could be astounding.

    Incredibly, nearly one in four households in the United States depend on an individual septic (onsite) system or small community cluster systems to treat wastewater? http://cfpub.epa.gov/owm/Septic/index.cfm

    Nationwide, decentralized wastewater treatment systems (septic systems, private sewage systems, on-site sewage disposal systems) collect, treat, and release about 4 billion gallons of effluent per day from an estimated 26 million homes and businesses (USEPA, 2002). More than half of these systems were installed over 30 years ago when rules were nonexistent, substandard or poorly enforced.

    SAVE THE MALIBU, CHANGE THE WORLD!

  19. Randy Cook permalink
    September 6, 2010

    There should be some way to extract the carbon from C02 emmissions and make carbon filters for storm or waste water run-off. I know a simple carbon filter provides protection and cleans up water that passes through it. Why can’t some of the money being spent now be diverted to develop a low cost carbon filtration product that cleans up our water and does something with the C02 at the same time?

  20. Peter S. Fiske permalink
    September 7, 2010

    We at PAX Water have noticed that the EPA tends to be somewhat “treatment-centric” in its approach to drinking water technologies. Most of the funding and technical focus for drinking water at the EPA appears to be on treatment technologies targeting very specific regulated contaminants in the treatment plant itself. The potable water distribution system, in contrast, appears to be thought of as a passive system of pipes and tanks – capable only of transporting drinking water from the treatment plant to the customer (and often with some degradation in water quality along the way). This narrow focus misses the potential synergies where new technologies combined with emerging best management practices can have profound impacts which may mitigate the need for many complex and costly treatment systems altogether.

    We think the EPA is missing a strategic R&D opportunity. Potable water distribution systems provide municipalities the opportunity to intervene at multiple points and measure and improve water quality all along the way. In-line sensors can continuously monitor water quality and adjust treatment parameters, and distributed disinfectant boosters can “right-size” disinfection to minimize the production of disinfection by-products.

    Active mixing is another example. Presently, fewer than 1% of potable water storage tanks in the United States are equipped with active mixers. Yet studies have shown that active mixing in water storage tanks can significantly reduce disinfectant loss, lower DBP production and improve water quality. Similarly, a regular schedule of tank maintenance, clean-out and recoating can preserve the integrity of distribution infrastructure indefinitely. By integrating these practices and technologies into the distribution system, water quality can be increased, and energy and disinfectant chemical use can be lowered.

    We encourage the EPA to adopt a strategic approach to distribution system technology. The EPA’s Environmental Technology Verification Program is nice, but it focuses on singular technologies, and not systems of technologies and practices. Similarly, EPA’s SBIR program seems to focus largely on individual technologies and not systems of technologies and how they interact. The Department of Energy has recognized that out-of-the-box technological solutions to critical problems can’t be funded by small-scale programs like SBIR, which is why they created the highly successful ARPA-E program to support innovative energy technologies. Why not an ARPA-W for water?

  21. Michael Bourke permalink
    September 9, 2010

    I would like to comment on Topic 2 from the perspective of a technology developer. My company is a developer and manufacturer of water treatment technologies and we have experience in launching a new ion exchange technology into the drinking water market in recent years as a means of addressing the Stage 1 and Stage 2 D/DBP Rules. While we have been relatively successful in this endeavor, it has taken a lot of persistence and financial resources to navigate the myriad of regulatory approval processes and overcome industry conservatism to finally achieve a critical mass of installations. Many of the barriers to acceptance are now removed and the company is making on profit on sales of this technology. Smaller companies or start-ups that are typically the major source of new innovative technologies could not survive such a long gestation period in bringing a new water treatment technology to market, thus the loss of such a valuable source of innovation.

    Therein lays a critical element that must be considered in developing innovative new water treatment technologies and in convincing the private sector to invest in these technologies. It is all very well to throw money into research to develop new technologies to address new contaminants, but unless the barriers to commercializing these technologies are removed the ‘research stimulus’ will be all in vain!

    The following are some suggestions to help address these barriers:
    1. Create a uniform set of requirements across all US States for the approval of new technologies. Currently permitting requirements for new technologies at the State level varies significantly and many states do not even have procedures for approving new technologies. Manufacturers are therefore required to commit to considerable time and expense in repeating trials and completing the necessary submissions on a state-by-state basis. This is probably most critical barrier that must be overcome.
    2. Provide funding for demonstration sites for new technologies that are developed to address new or proposed contaminant regulations. Demonstrations should generate independent data on lifecycle costs for these technologies versus more traditional alternatives so that these costs are more accepted by end users. These technologies should then be exempt from requiring further acceptance testing at the State level.
    3. Criteria for the allocation of grant monies often require technologies to be proven locally either via existing installations or extensive trials, or require bonding which disadvantages new technologies in grant funded projects. Remove the requirement for local installations where new technologies have been accepted at the Federal level and require allocation criteria for SFR grants and loans to include favorable consideration of those projects with lowest lifecycle cost. Provide guidelines for determining lifecycle cost to ensure consistency in these determinations.

    The above suggestions will also go along way to convincing the public sector to accept and invest in the newly developed technologies where regulatory approval processes are clear and consistent and independent performance data is available. Suggestions to assist making new technologies also available to small systems are as follows:
    1. State-specific acceptance criteria requiring extensive trials and permitting requirements for new technologies make it too expensive for small systems to consider new technologies. A uniform Federal acceptance process that eliminates the requirement for separate State acceptance could eliminate this cost barrier.
    2. Reducing the up-front expense of introducing new technologies for small systems such as extensive trials and approval processes will also provide a greater incentive for private industry to develop custom technological solutions for this market segment.

    I am very encouraged by the objectives of Topic 2 and providing incentives to accelerate new technology development is an excellent initiative but I stress that for there to be any meaningful return on this investment, the subsequent barriers to commercializing the resulting innovations must be addressed.

  22. Nicholas permalink
    September 16, 2010

    Regulating chemicals by class presents unique challenges that will require generating data at all levels of biological organization, including detailed information on mechanisms of action.

    Perhaps using a Toxicity Equivalence Factor aproach as has been vdeveloped for PAHs and Dioxins can be developed for other classes, for example pesticides that are cholinesterase inhibitors. Setting standards for “solvents” as a class will be extremely challenging.

    I support research in mechanistic toxicology because it not only improves certainty in risk assessments as well as informing green chemistry for designing safer chemicals.

  23. C.S. Brooks permalink
    November 11, 2010

    A powerful way to engage innovators in developing more effective and efficient drinking water technologies is to set strict minimum compliance standards. Doing away with the consideration of cost, thereby developing a technology-forcing structure akin to that of the Clean Air Act would reap much innovation. It is befuddling why there is a discrepancy between the consideration of cost in the CAA and the SDWA. Surely safe/clean drinking water is as important to our health as clean air. Although unsure of where the financial burden would fall in this scenario, as a consumer I would be happy to absorb additional costs for cleaner and safer water. I think it is quite manageable to pay, let’s say, 10% more for water than is currently charged.

Leave a Reply

Note: You can use basic XHTML in your comments. Your email address will never be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS