Consumer alert: Companies selling water filtration system under guise that it stops coronavirus spread, group says

EPA says coronavirus can't spread through tap water

SAN ANTONIO – Some companies are fooling San Antonio homeowners into installing expensive water filtration systems that they falsely say can stop the spread of the coronavirus, according to the Water Quality Association. The EPA reports that the virus does not spread through tap water.

Still, some people believe they have been duped into paying thousands of dollars for filtration systems that do not have an impact on the spread of COVID-19. And as cases surge, the scam is becoming more common, according to the Water Quality Association (WQA), a trade group that “represents the sector of the water treatment industry devoted to treating water on the homeowner’s or business-owner’s property.” The WQA says companies are also taking advantage of the fact that more consumers are at home during the day to try to convince them to install water treatment systems that they may not need.

A woman, who asked not to be identified because she’s still dealing with the company, shared her story with KSAT as a way to warn others.

"We're new homeowners. We had a door-to-door salesman come by, and he was offering to test our water," the woman said. "He started telling us how bad our water was and that he wanted to sell us a water purification system. He had us fill out this document with our Social (Security numbers) and our ID."

The form she received with an $8,000 price tag for the filtration system included seals from the Better Business Bureau and the WQA, which represents 2,500 companies worldwide that undergo extra training and sign ethics codes to get a seal.

When the woman went to the Better Business Bureau and WQA websites, she realized the company wasn’t affiliated with either organization.

She said she called both organizations, but by the time she heard back, the company had already started installing the water system.

“I lost my trust in them, so I just wanted to cancel,” she said. “(The salesperson) actually told me that he’ll remove the system if I remove the complaint off of (the Better Business Bureau website).”

While the woman continues to deal with the company, she got an independent water test and was told she didn't need the system in the first place. Luckily for her, she hadn't paid for it yet.

“People are misusing our logo constantly. They seem to be targeting lower-income and disadvantaged communities,” said David Loveday, with WQA. “We have some cases (where salespeople) actually go door to door saying they’re from the Water Quality Association. We don’t go door to door, and we don’t sell products.”

Loveday said WQA gets about 10 reports of this sort of misuse each month. He said in some instances, the salesperson will falsely claim coronavirus has infected the water, and it needs to be filtered.

"We and the EPA have found no evidence of COVID(-19) being transmitted in drinking water, so that is not an issue," Loveday said.

Before homeowners sign any forms, they should check the salesperson's logos and confirm with the associations online or by phone.

Anyone who has been a victim of this behavior is asked to report the incident to the Attorney General’s Office, the Better Business Bureau and WQA.

Editor’s note: An earlier, on-air version of this report included the name of a water purification equipment company that is discussed in the report. Although, as is discussed in the report, the Water Quality Association advised that they have seen companies taking advantage of COVID-19 fears (as well as the fact that more consumers are at home during the day), the company mentioned in the report did not do so in this instance. To the extent the report could be interpreted to imply that they did, that was not KSAT’s intention. While the consumer involved in that business interaction had concerns about some of the company’s business practices (in particular, representing that they had certain memberships or accreditations that they did not have), the consumer did not report that the company took advantage of fears surrounding COVID-19 in its interactions with her and KSAT has no reason at this time to believe that the company has done so.

About the Author:

Courtney Friedman is a KSAT anchor and reporter. She has an ongoing series called Loving in Fear, confronting Bexar County’s domestic violence epidemic. She's also covered Hurricane Harvey, the shootings in Sutherland Springs and Santa Fe, and tornadoes throughout Texas. She’s a California native and proud Longhorn who loves calling SA home.