By John Glowacki
The decline in the quality of the drinking water supply in many urban and some rural areas of North America has placed an increasing emphasis on the importance of drinking water product standards to safeguard public health and safety. In response to the public’s increased concern about potable water, manufacturers of drinking water treatment units (DWTUs) are bringing new products to market as never before. But introducing a new DWTU involves more than just putting ideas on paper and moving them into production. It requires designing, manufacturing and possibly certifying a system in compliance with existing standards for the production of quality drinking water.
Testing and certification organizations such as CSA International play an important role in helping manufacturers of point-of-use/point-of-entry (POU/POE) water purification units ensure products are designed and manufactured to provide high-quality drinking water. Certification providers assist manufacturers in understanding requirements their products must meet. Once a product is developed, these organizations test and certify that compliance with all applicable standards has been achieved. Marks issued by independent testing and certification organizations indicate to consumers, commercial buyers and regulatory authorities that products meet the standards.
Increasing global competition has pressured manufacturers to shorten new product development times and control testing and certification costs whenever possible. Manufacturers are therefore increasingly choosing a certification provider based on not only technical competency but also the level of service offered. Most certification providers have responded to this trend by streamlining their testing and certification procedures without reducing quality and offering enhanced services to customers. Manufacturers have traditionally selected a certification provider based on accreditation, mark recognition and reputation; however, by better understanding the applicable standards for POU/POE drinking water treatment products and selecting a certification and testing organization based on their level of service, manufacturers can complete the product certification process more quickly while often reducing certification costs at the same time.
Evolving North American product standards
In the United States, NSF International publishes standards for drinking water products and the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) facilitates and coordinates standardization activities. NSF/ANSI standards are largely focused on health effects associated with using drinking water-related devices, assessing claims made by manufacturers of drinking water products as well as evaluating appropriateness of materials used in these products that come directly into contact with drinking water.
A Canadian standard for DWTUs is currently under development. The proposed standard will be designed to provide a Canadian consensus document addressing DWTUs including references to applicable NSF/ANSI standards and containing other general plumbing product certification requirements such as mechanical compatibility and performance. It’s expected the process to write the standard will take one to two years. The DWTU Technical Committee is made up of water treatment industry representatives, government regulators, product users, trade associations and other interested parties.
Other organizations also play a role in establishing standards for drinking water treatment systems. For example, the California Department of Health Services (DHS) has its own set of criteria for drinking water products and the American Water Works Association (AWWA) has specifications for municipal drinking water system components. ANSI-accredited testing and certification organizations can help ensure products comply with all applicable standards.
Qualified testers & certifiers
Who’s qualified to test and certify drinking water products? At the national level, ANSI accredits organizations that test and certify POU/POE drinking water treatment products for the U.S. market. CSA International and other ANSI-accredited certification providers—NSF, the Water Quality Association and Underwriters Laboratories—are considered qualified to test and certify these products against applicable U.S. national standards.
The Standards Council of Canada (SCC) accredits testing and certification organizations that evaluate products for use in Canada. In addition, all certifiers of drinking water-related products in Canada must report regularly on their activities to the Federal-Provincial-Territorial Committee on Drinking Water. At present, certification of DWTUs isn’t mandatory across Canada except for Quebec. Elsewhere, regulations generally require units to be certified for compliance with applicable electrical and plumbing standards, depending on their size and capacity.
Grouping drinking water products in three areas
Drinking water product standards can be grouped into three general categories:
- Drinking water treatment chemicals (flocculants, surfactants, disinfectants, etc.);
- DWTUs (water filters, water softeners, reverse osmosis systems, distillers, UV disinfection systems, etc.), and
- Drinking water system components (coatings, valves, pipes, water meters, in-line devices, etc.).
Drinking water treatment chemicals—These are covered under NSF/ANSI Standard 60. When testing these products, the certification provider’s technical staff reviews the product/material information provided by the manufacturer, conducts facility audits, and may perform evaluations on the specific materials or chemicals.
Drinking water treatment units—NSF/ANSI Standards 42, 44, 53, 55, 58, and 62 apply to these products. These standards are used to certify manufac-turer’s health and aesthetic contaminant reduction claims for DWTUs. These claims are verified by performing:
- Extraction testing and health effects assessments of all materials in contact with water to assure the product isn’t adding any substance of toxicological significance,
- Toxicological assessment of all materials used in fabricating the product,
- Structural integrity testing of the product, and
- Verification of contaminant-reduction claims.
Drinking water system components—These components are covered under NSF/ANSI Standard 61 and applicable AWWA requirements (for municipal systems). Drinking water system components are tested to ensure they add no contaminants to drinking water that would cause adverse health effects. The certification provider’s staff also performs a toxicological review of product and material information for these components. Additional material information is often required to identify all potential contaminants. See Table 1 for more about these standards.
Test methods used to certify DWTUs are usually focused on two aspects of a specific purification technology: 1) the equipment’s ability to purify water and meet drinking water criteria including applicable regulations, guidelines and manufacturers’ claims, and 2) evaluation of the materials used in the construction of equipment so the parts in contact with water don’t contaminate the water being purified through leaching of materials and/or their deterioration.
Testing is based on the need to challenge equipment to do what the manufacturer has designed it to do and claims it does. The unit must generally be able to reduce or remove harmful water contaminants to meet standards requirements.
Various analytical and chemical tests are carried out on samples of water to see if changes in contaminant concentrations or other properties can be detected. These tests vary depending on the contaminant being studied as well as the materials selected and incorporated in the device. Test methods are normally based on methods used by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) and the water treatment industry.
Streamlining the process
As drinking water product manufacturers respond to increasing demand for units capable of delivering high-quality water, they’ve demanded faster, more convenient service from testing and certification organizations. These organizations have responded by enhancing services offered to customers and streamlining their internal procedures. For example, CSA International recently invested in a major upgrade in internal information systems, improving customer access to information, reducing customer paperwork, and allowing its technical staff to focus more available time on actually conducting product evaluations. Improvements have included implementation of a client service center, a new document management system plus expanded online service capabilities to accelerate project quote requests, project proposals, and status reports to customers.
New information-sharing agreements also make it faster, easier and less expensive for plumbing product manufacturers to receive product certifications for their qualified products. A new agreement between CSA International and NSF allows both organizations to share relevant test data, thereby sparing manufacturers the time and expense of duplicate product testing. The use of multiple certification marks on products is becoming unnecessary with the wider use of the CSA C/US mark issued by CSA International, which indicates the product meets applicable U.S. as well as Canadian standards.
With manufacturers facing ever-greater pressure from domestic and global competition, the need to reduce costs is critical. Drinking water equipment manufacturers can lower their product development costs and shorten development times by working together with their certification provider.
By consulting with a certification provider earlier in the development process, manufacturers can identify potential problem areas sooner and address them faster. In response to the changing needs of their customers, many certification providers now offer enhanced services and faster turnaround times. To fully benefit from these changes, manufacturers should compare the total cost, speed, and service offered by several accredited testing and certification organizations and select the one that best fits their needs.
About the author
John Glowacki is certification business development manager at CSA International, of Toronto. He manages CSA International’s certification business for drinking water products and plumbing products. He can be reached at (416) 747-2688, 416-401-6536 (fax) or email: [email protected]. For more information about CSA International, visit www.csa-international.org