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J Environ Sci Health A Tox Hazard Subst Environ Eng. 2009 Oct;44(12):1251-60. doi: 10.1080/10934520903140009.

Corrosion control in water supply systems: effect of pH, alkalinity, and orthophosphate on lead and copper leaching from brass plumbing.

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Watercare Services Ltd., Auckland, New Zealand.


This study explored the potential of lead and copper leaching from brass plumbing in the Auckland region of New Zealand. A five-month field investigation, at six representative locations, indicated that Auckland's water can be characterized as soft and potentially corrosive, having low alkalinity and hardness levels and a moderately alkaline pH. More than 90% of the unflushed samples contained lead above the maximum acceptable value (MAV) of 10 microg/L (New Zealand Standards). In contrast, the copper level of unflushed samples remained consistently below the corresponding MAV of 2 mg/L. Flushing however reduced sharply metal concentrations, with lead values well below the MAV limit. Generally, metal leaching patterns showed a limited degree of correlation with the variations in temperature, dissolved oxygen and free chlorine residual at all sampling locations. Furthermore, a series of bench-scale experiments was conducted to evaluate the effectiveness of pH and alkalinity adjustment, as well as orthophosphate addition as corrosion control tools regarding lead and copper dissolution. Results demonstrated that lead and copper leaching was predominant during the first 24 hr of stagnation, but reached an equilibrium state afterwards. Since the soluble fraction of both metals was small (12% for lead, 29% for copper), it is apparent that the non-soluble compounds play a predominant role in the dissolution process. The degree of leaching however was largely affected by the variations in pH and alkalinity. At pH around neutrality, an increase in alkalinity promoted metal dissolution, while at pH 9.0 the effect of alkalinity on leaching was marginal. Lastly, addition of orthophosphate as a corrosion inhibitor was more effective at pH 7.5 or higher, resulting in approximately 70% reduction in both lead and copper concentrations.

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