4 Reasons You’re Missing Your Total Organic Carbon (TOC) Water Quality Standard

Can't explain your water's sudden TOC spike?

If you produce purified water that’s used for organic-sensitive applications, meeting strict Total Organic Carbon (TOC) water standards requirements is vital. Yet, just a few preventable mistakes can cause your water quality to deteriorate, and your TOC count to spike.

Total Organic Carbon testing is becoming increasingly standard on validated water purification systems. To no surprise either, considering both ASTM and United States Pharmacopeia (USP) list TOC as one of the key items to test for in a purified water system.

Meeting these standards is especially important for anyone who needs ultrapure water, absent of any organics. That might include hospitals, pharmaceutical manufacturers or laboratories, just to name a few.

On the surface, meeting TOC requirements might not strike you as being overly complicated. Once you install the correct water purification system, it seems like everything should be smooth sailing from there.

But as with most sensitive equipment, human error always comes into play.

Be it improper design or using the wrong materials, one small error can have huge consequences for your water’s TOC count. If you notice rising TOC levels, it could be due to one of the following four mistakes.

4 Common Mistakes That Lead to Increased TOC Levels

1. Poor purified water system design

One of the more common causes for TOC problems comes down to poor water system design. More specifically, whoever designed the system didn’t do so with TOC in mind. Here are two problems we often encounter:

The system is under-engineered – A system designed with TOC in mind should include the following components: Reverse Osmosis filters, a storage vessel, a deionization system, UV technology (for bacteria control) and final filtration. A system that doesn’t include these components is at risk for a high TOC count.

The system is over-engineered – This has less to do with TOC count and more to do with servicing. Sometimes, we’ll encounter systems that are much more expensive and complex than they need to be under the guise that they’re necessary to control TOC.

Don’t fall for a water purification system that’s overkill. Overly elaborate design leads to more frequent, and more expensive, servicing down the road.

2. Improper storage vessel design and materials

Storage vessels hold the water that is initially purified by a Reverse Osmosis unit before continuing through the polishing process of deionization, UV and final filtration. Any water that isn’t used after cycling through the system feeds directly back to the storage vessel as well.

Historically, storage vessels have acquired a bad reputation for TOC, due to the challenge of TOC control inside the vessel. In reality, most TOC problems relating to the storage vessel have less to do with the unit and more to do with improper ventilation and materials.

Many people fail to ensure the storage vessels are properly sized and ventilated, which can cause TOC counts to rise. Additionally, when choosing your storage vessel, look for one made from a low TOC material.

3. Choosing the wrong testing procedure

You have two options for testing your water’s TOC count: Send it to an outside lab or purchase an inline meter for your system. Always choose the latter if possible.

Sending the water to an outside lab carries the potential for human error, primarily because the sensitive nature of the TOC test.

To send it to a lab, you need to take the sample aseptically, cap it and ship it. Simple as it sounds, one tiny mistake can cause the TOC count to be wrong. In fact, your TOC water sample is so sensitive that even breathing on it can skew your results.

Using an inline meter to test for TOC takes the human element out of the equation, increasing your chances of an accurate reading.

4. Using the wrong type of deionization resin

There are specialty resins on the market designed specifically for low TOC applications. Always communicate with your water treatment vendor to ensure you’re receiving the correct resin for your water applications.

Purified water producers who use water for organically sensitive applications can’t risk a high TOC count. Avoiding these four preventable mistakes is crucial to ensuring you meet your required TOC standards, every time.

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