Bringing clarity to drinking water disinfection product compliance and certification obligations in the US

May 27, 2021

US compliance and certification obligations for drinking water disinfection products and technologies are stringent and robust. They can also be hard to navigate due to complex requirements at both the federal and state levels. In this paper, we look at national and state registration prerequisites for water disinfection products classified as pesticides or pesticidal devices (including those that do not make direct pesticidal claims). We also explain how this fits with certification requirements for drinking water chemical and device standards. Our goal is to help manufacturers of drinking water disinfection products and technologies understand their full regulatory and compliance obligations.

Compliance and certification obligations for drinking water treatment products and technologies in the United States are complex, ever changing and unforgiving. Water treatment technologies are regulated across a spectrum of federal, state and local laws.

From a federal perspective, it is commonly thought that drinking water treatment products are regulated primarily under the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA). Originally passed by Congress in 1974, the SDWA regulates public drinking water supplies and the rivers, lakes, reservoirs, springs, and groundwater wells that resource them. The SDWA authorizes the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to establish national health-based drinking water criteria to protect against both naturally occurring and manmade contaminants.

Importantly, the SDWA generally imposes requirements not on product manufacturers, but rather on providers of public water supplies. As there are no federal water disinfectant product approval, registration, or licensing processes under the SDWA, chemical products and other technologies that control ‘pests’, such as bacteria, fungi, algae, protozoa or slime in drinking water are regulated under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) administered by the EPA Office of Pesticide Programs. Registration of products under FIFRA, however, does not mean that a disinfection product meets the requirements of other environmental and public health protection statutes. Furthermore, it does not mean that state, tribal or territorial laws allow for these products to be used by public water supplies.

Chemicals used to disinfect water must be registered in every state where the product is distributed, offered for sale, or used. In addition, most US states require or strongly recommend that products used for primary or secondary drinking water disinfection be certified to NSF/ANSI drinking water standards by an accredited, third-party certification body. Therefore, it is important that manufacturers of water disinfectant chemicals and devices understand all state and federal obligations that must be met prior to distribution and sale.

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