Helping Utilities Limit Lead Contamination

A Washington University team uses predictive modeling to show how lead can move through the distribution system during a pipe replacement
Helping Utilities Limit Lead Contamination
This diagram depicts Washington University's model. It takes into account several factors, including water use patterns and water chemistry, to predict where lead particles will dislodge and end up in the drinking water supply during a partial lead service line replacement. (Image courtesy of Biswas Lab)

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A new model has been developed for tracking where lead particles might travel during a lead service line replacement.

The hope of the team behind the study, engineers at Washington University in St. Louis, is that utilities can use the model to better plan pipe replacements and minimize the spread of lead in their distribution systems.

“We all know lead is not safe, it needs to go,” says Pratim Biswas, chair of Energy, Environmental and Chemical Engineering at the university’s School of Engineering & Applied Science. “This is the first comprehensive model that works as a tool to help drinking-water utility companies and others to predict the outcome of an action. If they have the necessary information of a potential action, they can run this model and it can advise them on how best to proceed with a pipe replacement to ensure there are no adverse effects.”

The model takes into account pipe age, pipe dimensions, water use patterns, water chemistry and previous pipe disturbances to predict how far both lead particles and dissolved lead might travel after they’ve been disturbed. The research was recently published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology.

“We’ll work to make these accurate models readily available, so utilities can download and use them,” says Biswas. “The predictions of the model will guide them on best practices to ensure the safety of the public at large.”

Source: Washington University


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