How Correct Piping Design Can Reduce Bacteria in Water Systems

By Jason Mitchell

Piping Materials Contamination Microbials Biofilm

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All systems are designed around a quality requirement and often that requirement involves managing the potential for bacteria existing in a water system. The pretreatment system and the main high-purity water treatment system may produce essentially bacteria-free water. However, that hard work can be negated if the piping system used in the facility is poorly designed or assembled, or is made of inappropriate materials of construction for the specific application. The purpose of this report is to discuss some aspects of piping associated with high-purity systems and examine ways that they may inhibit bacteria formation.

Maintaining a consistent level of quality is the goal of any process with high-purity water systems being no exception. Industries such as biopharmaceutical, microelectronics manufacturers, hospitals, laboratories, power generators, and many others require high-purity or deionized water to maintain efficient operation and manufacturing. These high-purity water systems must be exceedingly reliable in their ability to meet the quality requirements in order to sustain the production specific goals and standards. Therefore, the design and improvement of high-purity water systems is a highly involved and critically important process.  

High-purity water applications that must comply with strict regulations can be negatively affected by the slightest increase in bacterial levels. If bacteria colonies are allowed to continue to grow, this can create significant problems. If the results of testing show bacteria levels are found to be outside of acceptable limits, it may result in the loss of weeks’ worth of product and significant process down time.

This can be a difficult problem to prevent because water provides an ideal environment for bacteria to develop. Also, nutrients that bacteria feed off of can form on hard surfaces of water piping systems. In addition, defects in the piping, connection points, welds, instrumentation, and fittings of these systems can contribute to bacterial contamination of incoming water. Therefore, it is critical to minimize the bacteria-forming sites along with nutrient levels in the water. Preventing and safeguarding against bacteria-forming sites in high-purity water systems starts early on, with the design of a system. The design of the system should also include methods for dealing with sanitization.  


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