July 1, 2019
Health officials warn of deceptive tactics in sales of some water treatment systems
Scammers use bogus tests, false claims and inaccurate data
Following reports from concerned Minnesotans, the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) is warning consumers to beware of false claims, deceptive sales pitches, inaccurate water quality data and scare tactics used by some water treatment companies to sell expensive and unnecessary home water treatment units.
According to reports received by MDH, a common tactic is for a salesperson to offer a free water test and then claim that some substances found in the test are above allowable limits for drinking water. Companies have also falsely implied that they are working with utilities or the state health department.
Rick Wahlen, manager of utility operations for the city of Eden Prairie, described some recent experiences of consumers in his community with home water treatment companies.
“Some home water treatment salespeople say their systems are necessary to protect the homeowner’s health,’ Wahlen said. “They falsely create concern about the health and quality of tap water. Some customers call us after or even during these visits and are relieved to get the correct information. Unfortunately, others call us after they’ve bought a system and regret their decision to buy a system based on false information.”
Most Minnesotans do not need to install home drinking water treatment to protect their health, according to Sandeep Burman, manager of the drinking water protection program for the Minnesota Department of Health. Cities and other public water systems are required to provide drinking water that meets federal safe drinking water standards to protect public health. Properly constructed, maintained and tested private wells generally provide safe drinking water, unless their groundwater source becomes contaminated or there is a naturally occurring contaminant in the area.
Health officials offered the following advice to help consumers understand their water quality.
- Know where your drinking water comes from.
If you get your drinking water from a public water system, your system provides an annual water quality report called a Consumer Confidence Report. Contact your water system for the report or find it online at Consumer Confidence Reports. Be sure to contact your water system about water quality data you find on third-party websites.
If you get your drinking water from a private well, you are responsible for regularly testing your well water to make sure it is safe for drinking and cooking. Learn more about testing recommendations and how to test your water at Water Quality/Well Testing.
- Review MDH advice regarding deceptive sales practices.
Visit MDH’s Beware of Water Treatment Scams webpage to read detailed advice about deceptive sales practices. For example, a salesperson might conduct a series of water quality “tests” and claim that the results indicate the presence of contamination. The tests may not represent the true water quality, or the levels of contaminants might be too low to pose a health risk.
- Follow MDH’s guidance for choosing home water treatment.
Water treatment should be installed only if it is actually needed and selected to address a specific water issue. If you are considering the purchase of home water treatment, please visit MDH’s Home Water Treatment webpage for guidance on selecting, installing and maintaining treatment.
- Contact authorities if you believe you have encountered a scam.
If you believe you have been provided false or misleading information or subjected to unfair or high-pressure tactics during a sales visit, contact the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office – Consumer Complaints division at 651-296-3353 or 800-657-3787, or online at Minnesota Attorney General Office - Consumer Complaints.
“We recognize that people have a right to decide what is best for themselves and their family and may choose to install home water treatment for a variety of reasons,” Burman said. “We would just urge them to be cautious when purchasing a water treatment unit.”
There are licensing requirements for anyone performing water conditioning work (including installation or servicing of water treatment equipment) in Minnesota. Contact the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry at 651-284-5034 or firstname.lastname@example.org for questions about obtaining a license, or 651-284-5069 for complaints or questions about who needs to be licensed.
More information about home water treatment and drinking water protection in your community is available on MDH’s Drinking Water Protection home page.