Consumer Assistance With Water Treatment Systems

nsf_international_logoWhat’s the best way to determine if you need a water filter or water treatment system?  How do you know what’s in your water?  Where do you start?  Here are some helpful steps, according to the National Sanitation Foundation, which tests filters and treatment systems for safety and performance to provide assurance that a certified product will do what it says it is going to do.

Step 1: Find Out What’s In Your Water

Start by getting a copy of your water quality report (called a CCR or consumer confident report) from your local water utility/city or rural water plant.   If you have a private well, consider having your water independently tested.

Step 2: Decide What Contaminants You Want to Reduce

Once you know what contaminants are in your water, you can better find a treatment solution that is certified to address your water quality concerns.   Not all filters can reduce all contaminants. Based on the water report or your water testing results, you can decide what contaminants you want to reduce in your drinking water. NSF’s contaminant selection guide will help you to locate products that are certified to reduce specific contaminants.

Step 3: Compare Options for Water Treatment

A number of water treatment solutions are available, ranging from whole-house systems that treat all the water in your home, to filters for specific areas such as the kitchen faucet, to more portable solutions such as a water pitcher or even countertop filters. Some reduce only one contaminant while others reduce many.

  • Point-of-use (POU) systems treat the water where you drink or use your water, and include water pitchers, faucet filters and reverse osmosis (RO) systems. Reverse osmosis systems are the only NSF certified systems that reduce fluoride and nitrate; and Reverse Osmosis systems are the only ones that are NSF certified to reduce both lead and copper.
  • Whole-house/point-of-entry (POE) systems treat the water as it enters a residence. They are usually installed near the water meter (municipal) or pressurized storage tank (well water). Whole-house treatment systems include UV microbiological systems, water softeners or whole-house filters for chlorine, taste, odor and particulates.

Below is a list of NSF-certified versions of these products:

Point-of-Use Filters

Whole-House Filters

What Does It Mean to Be NSF Certified?

NSF certifies drinking water filters to standards applicable to each type of treatment option. You may notice the NSF mark on a product along with numbers such as NSF/ANSI 53 or NSF/ANSI 42, which refer to the standard to which the filter has been certified. Manufacturers choose which contaminants their product will reduce and NSF International verifies that their product will do what it says it is going to do. Because these standards allow manufacturers to certify their products to reduce a variety of contaminants, it’s important to check the packaging for both the standard name (such as NSF/ANSI 53 or NSF/ANSI 58) AND a claim for specific contaminant reduction such as lead.To review the protocols and NSF/ANSI standards that cover home water treatment systems, visit Standards for Water Treatment Systems.

 

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The National Water Quality Association has a voluntary certification program that also assists consumers with choosing a water treatment system.

Finding quality products in a marketplace flooded with options can be challenging. How can you tell if a product is safe, reliable, durable and capable of meeting the claims made on its packaging and literature?

WQA’s Certified Product Listings are available to help connect consumers with water treatment products that have been tested and certified to industry standards. WQA’s Gold Seal Product Certification Program ensures that the product is constructed or formulated from safe materials, the claims listed on the packaging are backed by test data, and the product will hold up under normal usage conditions.

WQA maintains a complete listing of all products and components that have earned the Gold Seal and Sustainability Marks. Only products that pass the rigorous testing requirements of industry standards, pass annual manufacturing facility audits, and comply with WQA’s Certification Schemes can be found in this listing.

Product Certification Areas

Water Quality Association provides various types of certifications to encompass a wide variety of products that may be used in the drinking water pathway. Anything that comes into contact with your drinking water may be a candidate for certification. Certification is divided up into areas that cover various aspects of water treatment technology.  To find out more about a specific certification area that WQA provides services for, please use the links here.

Drinking Water Treatment Units – The standards in this area cover full systems that use filter, reverse osmosis, water softener, or ultra violet treatment technology.

Drinking Water System Components – These standards cover individual components or parts of water treatment systems.

Drinking Water Treatment Chemicals – These standards cover the use of chemicals that are added to drinking water for health or aesthetic effects.

Sustainable Drinking Water Treatment Products – The Sustainability Certification Program recognizes products for improvements in the sustainability of their production facilities and processes.

Low Lead Compliance – The Low Lead compliance standard is a way for companies to show compliance to the EPA’s rule of no component in contact with drinking water may contain more than 0.25% lead content.

Food Equipment – The food equipment standards cover the certification of pieces of equipment that come into contact with food or drink related items.

Bottled Water – The bottled water standards cover the certification of water bottle containers.

International Standards – Standards that are only applicable outside the US and Canada are labeled as International Standards.

To see a list of the most current versions of the standards WQA is certifying to, refer to this list of standards.

 

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Have you purchased a water treatment system or product and it’s not doing what the manufacturer claims it will do?  The Attorney General’s Office welcomes complaints from citizens on a large variety of matters. If you have experienced a consumer problem, contact either the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office or the Better Business Bureau of Minnesota.

 Reports from citizens help to:

  • identify potential violations of Minnesota law,
  • identify new problems occurring in the marketplace,
  • build lawsuits against companies who violate state laws, and
  • educate the public about emerging scams.

If you have experienced a consumer problem that doesn’t seem right, the Minnesota AG would like to hear about it.  You may request help or report fraud by completing one of the forms below.   The form you should use depends on whether you are asking for help or reporting fraud.  After clicking on the appropriate link, boxes will appear requesting information that needed to handle your report. You may type your information into the boxes from your computer. After you have typed your information into all of the requested boxes, you may print the form and mail it to the following address:

Office of Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson
445 Minnesota Street, Suite 1400
St. Paul, MN 55101

Consumer Assistance Request Form

Use this form if you need help with a consumer problem such as unsatisfactory service, bill disputes, or other concerns and would like the Attorney General’s Office to contact the organization on your behalf.

Fraud Report Form

Use this form if you would like to report a fraud or scam.

If you have questions about whether you should send a report about a particular business or would like assistance in filling out the Consumer Assistance Request Form or Fraud Report Form, or have questions about which form to use, please call the Attorney General’s Office at (651) 296-3353 or 1-800-657-3787 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.  The Attorney General’s Office is not authorized to give legal advice to or act on behalf of individual citizens in private legal matters (e.g. wills, child support, divorce, criminal proceedings, etc.)

 

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You may also contact the Better Business Bureau of Minnesota to determine if a business has any complaints or issues on file.  The BBB maintains a database of companies and ratings to assist consumers when making a decision on purchasing items, using services, or entering into contracts.

BBB ratings represent the BBB’s opinion of how the business is likely to interact with its customers. The BBB rating is based on information BBB is able to obtain about the business, including complaints received from the public. BBB seeks and uses information directly from businesses and from public data sources.

BBB assigns ratings from A+ (highest) to F (lowest). In some cases, BBB will not rate the business (indicated by an NR, or “No Rating”) for reasons that include insufficient information about a business or ongoing review/update of the business’s file.

BBB Business Reviews generally explain the most significant factors that raise or lower a business’s rating.

BBB ratings are not a guarantee of a business’s reliability or performance.  BBB recommends that consumers consider a business’s BBB rating in addition to all other available information about the business.

You can look up a business rating at the following link:  http://www.bbb.org/overview-of-bbb-grade/

Magnetic Water Treatment Devices

Magnetic, sometimes called non-traditional conditioning systems, are devices that purportedly use electromagnetic fields to change the molecular makeup of various water constituents like calcium and iron to other more “inert” forms. The claimed result is a reduction or elimination of water contaminants.  According to a report by the Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences, the claims put forth by manufacturers and sales representatives of these devices are without validity. They do not refer to standard physical, chemical, or biological water treatment processes.  Therefore, several researchers have conducted performance evaluations of the equipment.
You can read the Penn State Report here.
 
Penn State has published a paper on magnetic-water-treatment-devices, available for download.

When in doubt, contact the Minnesota Water Quality Association for assistance.