The Process and Water Quality Specialists

Corrosion and Stabilization
  • corrosion 9
Water Treatment to Reduce Lead and Copper Levels

Because the plumbing in the homes of many consumers contains components made of lead and copper and it is not practical to remove them, the LCR requires water utilities to optimize corrosion control treatment to minimize the problem as much as possible. Treatment alternatives listed in the LCR include pH adjustment, adjustment of calcium carbonate saturation, and the addition of orthophosphate or silicate inhibitors. Of these, the adjustment of pH and the addition of orthophosphate have proven the most successful.

Where the adjustment of pH and alkalinity is concerned, the solubility of the scales on the surface of the metal is of particular importance. The solubility is controlled by the pH and the dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC). The DIC is the sum of the components of the carbonate system in the water (CO2 + HCO3  + CO3=), expressed as carbon (mg-C/L). The diagram below illustrates the zones of solubility that are generally observed for both copper and lead. Solubility increases with decreasing pH or increasing DIC.

As a result, treatment strategies generally involve adjusting water quality to regions of lower solubility on this diagram. The addition of sodium hydroxide increases the pH without changing the DIC. If a groundwater has excessive CO2, air stripping reduces the DIC while also increasing the pH. The addition of carbonate and bicarbonate will increase the DIC and the pH at the same time.

Phosphate addition is commonly used as the treatment of last resort. It appears to perform both by reducing the solubility of lead and copper, but also by behaving as an anodic inhibitor and reducing the underlying corrosion rate.