How TOC analysis relates to disinfection byproducts and the corresponding EPA regulations

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Courtesy of GE Analytical Instruments

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) amended the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) in 1996 to balance the risks presented by microbial pathogens and by-products from the disinfectant used to destroy these microbes. The byproducts, called Disinfection Byproducts (DBPs), form from the interaction of the naturally occurring organic matter (NOM) in a treatment plant’s source water and its disinfection process. NOM is typically measured as total organic carbon (TOC). DBPs, such as trihalomethanes (THMs), continue to form as water passes through a plant’s distribution system and contact time increases. Therefore, it is said that the TOC measured in a plant today can be measured as DBPs tomorrow.

The EPA recently introduced new regulations to help further reduce health risks associated with DBPs. These changes will make meeting the DBP rules more difficult, and in turn make understanding a plant’s TOC values and the correlation to DBP levels even more critical.

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