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Keeping it clean: water purification as an amenity.

It was only a few years ago that installing water purification systems in new construction was viewed as an admission of guilt. "It's like announcing that this area has bad water!," developers protested.

That line of thinking no longer holds water, due to the overwhelming evidence of the contaminants in water supplies around the country. In addition to health risks, impurities in the water supply are the invisible culprits responsible for the corrosion of plumbing lines and fixtures.

Builders and property owners who want to be one step ahead of the competition are installing purifiers during construction and promoting them as an amenity. Like central air conditioning, garbage disposals, and microwave ovens before them, water purifiers have crossed the threshold from luxury to necessity.

According to the Water Quality Association, a trade organization representing manufacturers of water purifiers, sales skyrocketed 35 percent per year in 1987 and 1988. Almost 2 million water purifiers were sold in 1988 alone, and 1989 also proved to be a banner year. Close to 15 million households and more than 250,000 commercial, institutional, and industrial customers nationwide now have water purifiers.

In several states, including Connecticut, Rhode Island, California, and Michigan, banks require water quality inspections for mortgage applications, in addition to termite and,roof inspections, where municipal water is unavailable.

While most municipal water systems are checked regularly to see that the water meets federal and state standards, minimum standards do not put to rest the concerns of an increasingly health-conscious population who realize how many toxic chemicals are released into the environment every day.

Source of concern

The concern over our drinking water stems from the realities of life in an industrialized society. Tap water can contain any of nearly 1,000 different contaminants, including heavy metals, petroleum products, pesticides, fertilizers, bacteria, and radioactivity.

Even water that is pure when it leaves the plant may be contaminated by the time it comes out the tap. Small breaks in underground waterlines can allow pesticides, fertilizers, or contamination from septic tanks to seep in. In older construction, lead-based solder in plumbing pipes can dissolve in the water. People who get their water from private wells have even more to worry about.

Water that is safe to drink goes far beyond smelling good, tasting good, or looking good, as many toxic chemicals and pollutants are odorless, tasteless, and colorless. The technology exists for municipalities to provide better drinking water, but the economics do not warrant using pure drinking water to wash cars, water lawns, and flush toilets. Even the chlorine municipalities add to water to kill organisms can react with other chemicals to produce cancer-causing substances.

Only by using an effective point-of-use water purifier can we be sure that the water from our tap is safe to drink.

Purifiers

Before selecting a system for a residential complex, it is best to have the water tested to determine which harmful chemicals and organisms are present. Tests are conducted by local health agencies as well as EPA-certified private labs, and range in price from about $25 to about $100 for a standard test for the most common- contaminants in the area.

A variety of water purifiers are available for residential and office use. There are systems for point-of-entry or point-of-use installation. Point-of-entry systems treat all water in the house, hot and cold, including bathtubs, toilets, washing machines, and dishwashers. Point-of-use purifiers treat water before it runs out of the tap and are installed primarily in kitchens and for other sources of drinking water.

Although the public is less familiar with brands of purifiers than they are with other appliances, the basic considerations that go into purchasing any appliance certainly apply. Be sure the company is established and reputable, the installation is uncomplicated, a good warranty is included, and a reliable dealer network exists to provide prompt, economical service. Then look at the features of different products.

The three main types of purifiers are reverse-osmosis units, distillers, and carbon filters. Independent analyses reveal that the combination of reverse osmosis and deionization is the only way to get water that is salt-, toxin-, and pollutant-free. Costs for many of the reverse-osmosis systems on the market today are comparable to other types of purifiers.

In the process of reverse osmosis, water passes through a semi-porous membrane, removing bacteria and other contaminants, including lead. Combined with deionization, the remainder of heavy metals and salts are removed from the water.

Distillers are another option. In the process of distillation, water is boiled, condensed, and filtered through a carbon filter. Most, but not all contaminants are removed, and the system must be cleaned frequently to remove residues. Many systems filter the distilled water through a carbon filter, too.

Carbon filters are the most common types of purifiers because they are the least expensive. However, the filters can accumulate contaminants and become breeding grounds for bacteria. Activated carbon filters reduce organic materials, pesticides, and several other contaminants, but they do not remove lead, mercury, iron, and other heavy metals; bacteria; and viruses.

Subsink units are favored by builders and property owners since they are permanently installed by the plumbing contractor and are an attractive sales or leasing amenity. Installation is uncomplicated, and purified water is delivered through the regular faucet with more pressure than the faucet-mount/kitchentop units.

The ultimate combination for a high-end property is a reverse osmosis/deionization unit for the drinking water source and a point-of-entry whole filtration system. In parts of the country where a point-of-entry water softener also is necessary, the contractor's cost for all three components ranges from about $1,500 to $3,900 per unit.

Reduced corrosion

Property managers are familiar with the corrosive effects of impure water. Corrosion of the rubber fixtures and gaskets in toilet tank tops is dramatically reduced when the ammonia is filtered out of the water supply. A point-of-entry softener and carbon filter eliminate the build-up of calcium and ammonia in water lines, heaters, and faucets. Even the decorative appeal of colored fixtures in bath and shower areas is preserved when the residue is removed.

What we see happening to the plumbing fixtures tells us something: The same inorganic materials that line our water pipes will eventually line the pipes in our bodies!

Service

A good water purifying system can be kept in top condition for many years through routine care. Service is basic, and a competent maintenance staff should be able to provide whatever is necessary.

Carbon filters should be changed annually, no matter what. Reverse-osmosis systems should be checked to be sure they still are receiving the proper rejection of contaminants. If necessary, the modules should be changed. Timers should be checked to be certain the clocks are set at the right time. Water softeners must be brining properly, which means they are backwashing themselves with a salt solution.

Maintenance of water purifiers is a good investment, considering the long-range savings in plumbing fixtures and repairs. Yearly maintenance costs range from $25 to under $100 for more inclusive systems. This is a nominal expense to guarantee the longevity of a building's plumbing fixtures.

Some property managers control maintenance costs by becoming sub-dealers with their local water purification dealer and servicing the systems themselves through their maintenance staff The key to efficient, economical service is purchasing a system from an established local dealer.

Marketing tool

At a time of increasingly competitive sales and leasing, offering water purifying units as a standard amenity is an effective marketing tool, especially in upscale communities. For residents of all ages and lifestyles, it is a welcome alternative to the expense of having bottled water delivered or the inconvenience of lugging it home from the supermarket.

Ten years ago, few people thought about the quality of their tap water. These days, the question is no longer whether or not to install a purifier, it is which purifier to buy.

Slowly but surely, property owners are realizing that water purifiers are as basic and easy to maintain as air conditioners and garbage disposals. They also extend the life of a building's entire plumbing system. It is unfortunate that our water is polluted, but at least we have the technology to filter out the majority of hazardous substances.

Alfred J. Lipshultz, president and CEO of Aquathin Corporation, founded the company in 1980 with only one water purification system. Today, with 57 water purification systems on the market and more than 525 distributors worldwide, the Fort Lauderdale-based manufacturer has three patents to its credit. In addition, Aquathin received the President's "E" Award for Excellence in Exporting from the United States Department of Commerce.

Mr. Lipshultz is on the Board of Advisors of the Institute for International Trade and Development of the Friedt School of Business and Entrepreneurship of Nova University.

Is Your Drinking Water Safe?

Since 1974, the federal government has played an increasing role in setting and enforcing safety standards for water. Today, it regulates 83 manmade and natural elements. However, of these, only two pose immediate threats to health: * Bacteria produced from human and animal waste does not directly

cause disease, but may promote the growth of organisms that cause

typhoid, hepatitis, cholera, and dysentery. * Nitrates most often enter the water system through runoffs from

fertilizer, animal feedlots, and sewage. Nitrates can react with hemoglobin

in the blood of children under one year old, resulting in life-threatening

anemia. Among other chemicals that pose long-term threats to health are:

* Arsenic - from pesticides and industrial waste * Cadmium - from mining and smelting * Endrin - from insecticides Used on grains and orchards * Lead - leaching from pipes and solder * Mercury - from the manufacture of paint and paper, from fungicides * Fluoride - from water additives, toothpaste

Small water systems serving less than 3,300 people are most likely to have violations of Safe Drinking Water Standards. However, in 1988, 82 percent of Americans received their water from systems with no violations, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
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Title Annotation:includes related article on safety of drinking water
Author:Lipshultz, Alfred J.
Publication:Journal of Property Management
Date:May 1, 1991
Words:1652
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