Do you need a referral to a new water treatment company, but don’t know where to look? Do you want help keeping up with new water regulations and changes to the water quality in your community? You don’t need to go any further than the Association of Water Technologies International (AWT), headquartered in McLean, Va.

Bill Pearson, Certified Water Technologist (CWT), is vice president and director of consulting and technical services for Southeastern Laboratories, Inc. He also is president of AWT.

What does AWT have to offer contractors who service commercial heating systems?

“One of the areas that they need is water treatment experience,” Pearson said. The association can provide water treatment expertise for boiler, cooling, process, and wastewater water plants (potable).

If you are already dealing with an AWT member (which you can find out by visiting the association’s Web site,, be comforted. This international society has more than 600 members representing more than 30 percent of the domestic water market. Its mission, said Pearson, is to provide business and technical education. There are full members (practicing water treaters) and associates (including mechanical and chemical equipment suppliers).

Reliability And Safety

Are unreliable water treatment firms a problem? Have you ever suspected that your water treatment firm was selling your customers something they didn’t need?

“In any business, you get people who do good jobs and not good jobs,” said Pearson. In order to ensure the quality of its membership, AWT provides a certification program for CWTs, he explained, who must sign and abide by a code of ethics.

“Clearly, you need to be aware that if you don’t have the proper treatment and equipment, this can lead to scale, corrosion, deterioration” — in short, reduced efficiency and a shortened equipment lifespan, he said. The benefits of using a certified water treatment specialist include reduced operating costs, improved safety, a better equipment lifespan, and environmental compliance.

“There are always the horror stories about the system going bad, or somebody didn’t know what they were doing,” said Pearson. Choosing a reputable water treatment firm is “clearly a decision that your readers [contractors] need to make.”

In addition, environmental regulations from the EPA and other agencies have been known to change. A qualified water treatment company will keep track of those changes, he said, as well as changes in the local water supply’s quality.

Improved safety can result in reduced incidences of Legionella, Pearson said. In fact, “AWT just released one of the most comprehensive Legionella statements, free as a download from our Web site.” Pearson is AWT’s direct liaison with ASHRAE (the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers) on this subject.

While people tend to think of cooling towers when they think of Legionella, there is a real risk from warm-water sources such as hot tubs. “Legionella has an optimum temperature range,” Pearson said, “with optimum conditions for growth.” Untreated water needs to be at least 140 degrees F for the bacteria to be killed, preferably 160 degrees. The temperature of the water in most untreated hot tubs offers ideal growth conditions for Legionella. A risk assessment by a certified water treatment specialist can help contractors determine what their customers’ risks are.

In addition, “Contractors who work for hospitals and within the health care system need to be aware that the Joint Commission on the Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) requires regular Legionella testing,” Pearson said. It’s a requirement in that industry, but it makes good sense for any application where Legionella is a risk. And keep in mind that getting a good test result once doesn’t mean that Legionella won’t develop later, he pointed out.

Health care facilities are at particular risk when it comes to Legionella and other disease-causing bacteria because so many people in those facilities have compromised immune systems — a much higher percentage than the general population.

“If I were a contractor, I would want to make sure my water treatment specialist is familiar with Legionella,” Pearson said.

Association Details

AWT has an active Web site where contractors can locate a regional company that is an AWT member. “This may be more useful than word-of-mouth recommendations,” Pearson said, which are “sometimes good, sometimes bad.”

The association was founded in 1985 by a small group of water treatment businesses. Over the past 18 years, the association has grown to represent independent water treatment companies and associated businesses throughout the United States and the world.

Members are described as “regional, independent water treatment firms that specialize in providing products, technical services, and consulting for boiler water, cooling water, and wastewater treatment programs.” The AWT says it can provide expert sources on topics such as:

  • General water treatment issues.

  • Boiler and cooling water treatment.

  • Process water treatment.

  • Closed-loop treatments.

  • Wastewater treatment.

  • Water recycling — zero discharge.

  • White rust.

  • Legionella.

  • Enhanced tubes.

  • Water purification.

  • Reverse osmosis.

    The association’s CWT program “is the first independent certification of its kind for boiler and cooling water treatment specialists,” the association says, “and requires extensive knowledge and experience in all aspects of water treatment. There are currently more than 150 technologists certified by AWT internationally,” in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Hong Kong, Argentina, and the Philippines.

    The association says its water treatment professionals “lead the industry in bringing new technologies to the forefront.” In addition, “AWT professionals function independently and respond quickly, without the cumbersome mandates and protocols of larger companies.”

    Members face issues such as education, training, regulatory affairs, and the latest scientific research, the association says. It “continually works to define the standards of excellence in the industry and provide quality assurance to customers.”

    For more information, contact AWT International, 8201 Greensboro Dr., Ste. 300, McLean, VA 22102; 800-858-6683; 703-610-9005 (fax).

    Publication date: 09/15/2003