Lead in Pipelines – Confirmed Cause of Crisis
According to a study conducted on lead service lines in Flint, during July 2017, the precursor for crisis was the missing lead from the water pipelines.
Researchers at the University of Michigan conducted a study to understand the cause of water crisis risen in Flint. Their findings emphasize the importance of uninterrupted anti-corrosion treatment to aging water systems which supply water to American homes.
They found lead rust inside the pipes and studied the layer along with its chemical composition. This analysis resulted in the estimation that during a period of 17 months, the average lead service line released 18 grams of lead through the system, while supplying Flint river water.
“This is the amount of lead that would have entered a single home” said Terese, an author of Environmental Science and Technology. “If we average that release over the entire period the city received Flint River water, it would suggest that on average, the lead concentration would be at least twice the EPA action level of 15 parts per billion.”
Some amount of lead was consumed, while some went down the drains. Some amount might still be stored in homes, posing as impending risk even after the lead service line has been removed.
If lead pipes are replaced with galvanized steel pipes connecting homes, then these pipes would act as lead sponges holding and releasing particles of the toxic metal.
The researchers studied pipe samples under a scanning electron microscope and found that these pipes were made up of a greater portions of aluminum and magnesium than that of lead.
When lead pipes age, their surface atoms react get oxidized by reacting with the oxygen and other chemicals. This causes them to rust. Water treatment does not prevent rusting, however, it prevents the layer form breaking down and polluting the water.
Thus water treatment is important to drinking water pipelines and lead pipelines must be checked timely and replaced or treated for safety purposes.
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