Maple Grove warns of water treatment test scams

The city of Maple Grove is warning its residents of potential scams dealing with the testing of water within the city.
On Dec. 26, the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) urged Minnesota residents “to beware of false claims, deceptive sales pitches, and scare tactics being used by some water treatment companies to sell expensive and unnecessary water treatment systems.”
The MDH states that several cities have issued alerts after residents complained of water testing kits and personal information requests were left on people’s doors. There are also complaints about a “website containing misleading information about municipal water suppliers and what tests are done on drinking water. The website has been used to try to sell treatment systems to homeowners,” the MDH said.
While the pitch varies in these situations, the salesperson nearly always:
• Recites a list of recent groundwater contamination problems across the state, regardless of whether the contamination actually affects the resident or not.
• Conducts a series of water quality “tests” that the salesperson claims indicate the presence of contamination, when in fact they may simply indicate the presence of naturally occurring minerals in the water.
• Misrepresents state and federal drinking water standards, claiming the resident’s water exceeds those standards, and implying the water is unsafe to drink.
• Offers a “one-time only” offer of a water treatment system at a “greatly reduced” price, when in fact the systems are being sold at grossly inflated prices.

In some of the worst instances, the salesperson has implied or said that he is working with the city’s water utility or the state health department, according to the MDH. In most cases, the systems are being sold for thousands of dollars more than they would cost if bought through a reputable water treatment company.
The MDH said, “If you use city water, it is safe to drink unless you are notified directly by the city that the water is not safe to drink. The United States Environmental Protection Agency sets standards for public water supplies and the water is tested regularly to ensure that these standards are met.”
Maple Grove Public Works Director Ken Ashfeld said, “The City of Maple Grove Utility Department has a very comprehensive water sampling and testing procedure to assure that the water we provide retains the high quality that our customers expect. Maple Grove’s water is of high quality and requires no further treatment, however many residents elect to provide for softening at their home with a homeowner water softer that is available through many retailers.”
According to Ashfeld, the city of Maple Grove conducts  thousands of water quality tests throughout the year, both at the water treatment plant and at numerous sites throughout the city. Some sampling sites are selected for ease of access and other are at random.  Water testing would identify any constituents that would be harmful and appropriate action would be taken if such tests alerted us of any potential health issues.
If homeowners are considering the purchase of a home water treatment system,  the MDH recommends the following:
• Make sure the treatment system or device being considering is certified to achieve the results being claimed. Reliable certifiers include: NSF International, Underwriters Laboratories (UL), and the Water Quality Association (WQA). Links to these organizations can be found athealth.state.mn.us/divs/eh/wells/links.html.
• Work with a reputable water treatment company that has experience working in the area.
• Verify that the installation is done by a licensed plumber or licensed water conditioning contractor (as required by state law). Such plumbers and contractors are licensed through the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry at dli.mn.gov/CCLD/Plumbing.asp.
• Compare water treatment systems and prices.
• If you obtain your drinking water from a public water supply, such as a city system, contact your local water system for more information regarding your water quality.

Any residents that are contacted by a company to test the water and they say they are working with the city or the state, ask for the name and phone number of the company’s contact person at that agency.
Ashfeld added, “Residents can obtain additional information relative to the city’s water quality from the city website under the Public Works Department information and then use their own judgment as to the need for additional treatment. Of course, residents can obtain advice from Public Works staff by calling 763-494-6370.”
Those who believe they have been provided false or misleading information or that they have been subjected to unfair or high-pressure tactics in the course of a sales visit should contact the Minnesota Attorney General’s office Consumer Complaints division at 651-296-3353 or 800-657-3787 or online at ag.state.mn.us/Consumer/Complaint.asp.

Contact Alicia Miller at alicia.miller@ecm-inc.com

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