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Lead levels in drinking water spike when copper and lead pipes joined
Date:12/15/2011

now have half a lead pipe, you might think your problem would be half of what it was or maybe completely unchanged," Giammar says.

His experiment reveals that instead, it could be far worse. The joined lead-copper pipe in his lab releases five times more lead than did the original lead pipe.

The lead is released by galvanic corrosion, a process set up whenever two dissimilar metals are immersed in a conducting liquid.

The same thing happens if lasagna or another acidic dish is made in a stainless steel pan, covered with aluminum foil, and placed in a refrigerator. The two metals and the lasagna act as a galvanic cell, and some of the aluminum may migrate out of the foil and plate out on the surface of the lasagna.

The Lead and Copper Rule

The project to measure galvanic corrosion of lead pipes was the third Giammar has done for the Water Research Foundation, an organization of water utilities that allows them to pool their money to support research on problems of common interest.

Giammar, who calls himself a heavy metals guy, did his doctoral work on uranium contamination of soil and groundwater, work relevant to the far-flung branches of the Manhattan Project that purified uranium for the atomic bomb during World War II.

He still works on uranium remediation, but when he moved to St. Louis in 2002, he thought that he really ought to work on lead as well, because Missouri has historically been one of the two largest lead-producing states in the country. The other is Alaska.

Giammar began with experiments directed at understanding exactly what happens when phosphates are worked into lead contaminated soil. Under the right conditions, the phosphate will bind to the lead and immobilize it.

Phosphate remediation of lead contaminated soils had been successful in Joplin, Mo., a town located in the Tri-State district, an historic lead-zinc mining district that takes in parts of Missouri, K
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Contact: Diana Lutz
dlutz@wustl.edu
314-935-5272
Washington University in St. Louis
Source:Eurekalert  

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