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Beware of home water treatment scams

By Dottie Teuton

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 18, 2000

If you are worried about the safety of your drinking water, you are not alone. With increased reports of leaking landfills, corroding lead pipes and leaking underground gasoline tanks, the public has become more aware of possible safety issues about their water. These concerns have allowed certain home water treatment scams where unscrupulous salespeople use scare tactics and fraudulent methods to sell their water treatment devices.

For example, fraudulent sellers that advertise free home water testing may only be interested in selling you a water treatment device, regardless of whether you need it. In doing the test, the representative may add tablets or drops of chemicals to your tap water and tell you the water will change color or particles will form if it is contaminated. When the water changes before your eyes, the representative may warn you that the water is polluted and may cause cancer. You are told that the best solution is to buy the company's water treatment device.

Debbie Taylor, a microbiologist with the Polk County Health Department says this is not necessarily so. Taylor said a bacteria test must be done in a laboratory and cannot be done in a home. Taylor also suggested that if the representative claims your water is polluted, you should request a printout of their findings and have the water tested by an independent laboratory. Other tests also can be performed at very low costs. For information on this and other water purity issues, Taylor suggests you contact your local health department. In Citrus County, the number for the Health Department is 527-0068. They will sell you a water-testing kit for $10. You get the water, take it to them and they will have it analyzed.

The Federal Trade Commission suggests you take the following steps before you have your water tested or purchase any type of water treatment system:

Avoid "free" home water tests. Offers to test water in your home for free are almost always part of a sales promotion. More important, in-home testing does not provide the specific in-depth analysis that is required to determine your water treatment needs.

Be wary of claims of government approval. Some fraudulent sellers claim certain governments recommend their equipment. This just isn't so.

Some items to keep in mind when considering a water softening system:

Does the dealer have an established business in the area?

Does he have customer references available?

Will a representative call at your home to determine the right kind of equipment?

For health related problems, have your water analyzed by a reputable laboratory and or the Health Department.

Does the unit have enough capacity to meet present and future needs?

Is installation included in the price?

Does the equipment carry a specific, written warranty?

Have you read and understood the warranty?

Did the salesperson explain the method and cost of regenerating the systems?

Most area water conditioning firms are honest; but, as in everything else, some are not. It may pay to check them out before inviting them into your home.

Editor's note: Dottie Teuton is executive director of the Better Business Federation. Additional information on this and other business/consumer questions may be obtained from the office by calling in Citrus County at 795-3547 or Marion County 307-9222. Or visit the office at 6460 W. Gulf to Lake Hwy., Crystal River, FL, 34429, or contact by e-mail at

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