A Point of Use (POU) device is a treatment device installed on a single faucet or spigot used for the purpose of reducing contaminants in drinking water at that one tap. POU devices can sit on the counter, attach to the faucet, or be installed under the sink. A Point of Entry (POE) device is any unit installed to treat the water entering a house or building for the purpose of treating water distributed throughout the entire house or building. POE and POU devices are sometimes used by homeowners to enhance the aesthetic quality (taste, color and odor) of drinking water supplied by a local public drinking water system. In other cases they are installed by private well owners or Public Water Suppliers to meet drinking water quality standards.
Information for Homeowners
Home Water Treatment Might Not Be the Best Option for Everyone
It can be difficult to determine whether you need a water treatment unit in your home or what type of unit would be best for you. Residents of Massachusetts who receive their water from a Public Water Supplier (PWS) have drinking water that does not need treatment for health protection. Your PWS must meet all the requirements of the Safe Drinking Water Act and must supply you with an Annual Consumer Confidence Report to provide you with information regarding the quality of your water. For contact information for your Public Water Supplier see MA Public Water Supplier contacts sorted by Town. If you receive your water from a PWS, home water treatment units would only be needed to improve the physical qualities of water - the taste, color, or odor.
If you have a private well and the drinking water has a contaminant that might make you or a family member ill, it is best to remove the contamination source or replace the unsafe water supply with a safe water supply. Home water treatment units should only be used to lower health-related contaminants in emergencies or if there is no other safer source of drinking water available. Private wells are regulated by local Boards of Health. For MassDEP guidance on private wells see Private Wells.
Selecting and Maintaining a Home Water Treatment Unit
You may want to get your water tested first to determine what if any contaminants are present. If you get your water tested, you should use a Massachusetts certified lab. See Find a MassDEP Certified Lab for a list of certified labs.
No single treatment process can remove all substances in water. If you decide to install a home water treatment unit, the unit (or units) you choose should be certified by NSF, UL, or Water Quality Association (WQA) and specifically labeled to reduce or remove the contaminant you are concerned about. If there are several substances you want removed from your water, you may need to combine several treatment processes into one system. For a list of certified devices, search NSF Certified Drinking Water Treatment Units, Water Filters).
You should continue to test your drinking water after you install a treatment unit because there is often no way to know if a treatment system has failed. All home water treatment units require regular maintenance to work properly. Regular maintenance can include changing filters, disinfecting the unit, or cleaning scale buildup. Home water treatment units that are not properly maintained will begin to lose their effectiveness over time. In some cases unmaintained units can make quality worse.
Lead in Drinking Water
If you are concerned that there may be lead in your drinking water see Is there lead in my tap water?
The USEPA has published a guide to help in finding a home water treatment device that will remove lead. See Consumer Tool for Identifying POU Drinking Water Filters Certified to Reduce Lead
Creating a New Public Water Supplier by Installation of a POE Device
In some situations the installation of a Point of Entry (POE) drinking water treatment unit into a building would be regulated by MassDEP. If you are installing a POE device to treat water entering a building that regularly serves an average of at least 25 individuals daily at least 60 days of the year, the installation may create a consecutive PWS that would be regulated by MassDEP; see the tab on Water Suppliers if this applies to you.
Information for Public Water Suppliers
Existing Public Water Suppliers (PWS)
Existing Public Water Suppliers may be considering the installation of Point of Use or Point of Entry devices in their customers' homes in order to meet Massachusetts Drinking Water Quality Standards versus installing a centralized water treatment system. POU and POE treatment devices rely on many of the same treatment technologies that have been used in central treatment plants. However, while central treatment plants treat all water distributed to consumers to the same level, POU and POE treatment devices are designed to treat only a portion of the total flow.
Not all types of contaminants can be treated with a POU or POE device. See EPA's guidance document with recommendation on how to select, install, operate, maintain, and monitor this equipment. The guidance document also outlines the technical, operational, and managerial issues involved in implementing a POU or POE treatment strategy. See Additional Resources Point-of-Use or Point-of-Entry Treatment Options for Small Drinking Water Systems.
Installation of POE or POU devices in order to meet Massachusetts Drinking Water Standards (reduce contaminants to less than the maximum contaminant level or action level and/or satisfy a treatment technique requirement), is regulated by MassDEP. See Additional Resources Self Guide for Point-of-Use and Point-of-Entry Treatment Devices to get started on the process of permitting and approval for use.
Creation of a New PWS by the Installation of POU/POE Devices
For owners of buildings considering the installation of POE/POU devices, MassDEP does not regulate POE/POU devices unless the installation would create a consecutive Public Water Supplier (PWS). If the device treats all the water entering the building (a POE device) and regularly serves an average of at least 25 individuals daily at least 60 days of the year, the installation would create a PWS. If the POE device is being used to address aesthetic concerns only, it is not regulated by MassDEP as long as the owner meets all the requirements of the MassDEP Drinking Water Regulations, 310 CMR 22.23 (6) (see Additional Resources below). If the POE device is being used to meet Massachusetts Drinking Water Quality Standards (reduce contaminants to less than the maximum contaminant level or action level and/or satisfy a treatment technique requirement) the owner would become a PWS and would be regulated as such by MassDEP.
Schools that are installing POU treatment at bubblers, water fountains and kitchen sinks in order to remove lead are not considered consecutive PWS. Drinking water sitting stagnant in plumbing overnight can leach lead from the pipes and fixtures in a school containing lead (such as older brass fixtures). The long-term solution for all schools in Massachusetts is to replace the plumbing that contains lead.
New Technology Approvals for POE/POU Devices/Systems (BRP WS31)
POE/POU devices need a new technology approval when used by a Public Water Supplier to meet Massachusetts Drinking Water Quality Standards and comply with 310 CMR 22.23. See Additional Resources - Technology Approvals for POE/POU Devices/Systems for a list of new technologies for POE/POU devices or systems that have been approved for use by Public Water Suppliers in Massachusetts. The inclusion of a technology on this list does not constitute MassDEP endorsement of the product. Some products may no longer be available.
If you are interested in obtaining approval for a New Technology for a POE/POU treatment system that is not currently on the MassDEP list, visit the MassDEP website at https://www.mass.gov/how-to/ws-31-new-technology-vending-machines-poupoe-devices.