Environmental Chemistry Environmental Chemistry Society
Environmental problems - Chemical approaches
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Effects of pH value, chloride and sulfate concentrations on galvanic corrosion between lead and copper in drinking water

Ding-Quan Ng A and Yi-Pin Lin B C

A Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Faculty of Engineering, National University of Singapore, 117576, Singapore.

B Graduate Institute of Environmental Engineering, National Taiwan University, Number 1, Section 4, Roosevelt Road, Taipei 10617, Taiwan.

C Corresponding author. Email: yipinlin@ntu.edu.tw

Environmental Chemistry 13(4) 602-610 https://doi.org/10.1071/EN15156
Submitted: 24 July 2015  Accepted: 11 September 2015   Published: 23 November 2015

Environmental context. Galvanic corrosion has been recently reported as the main cause of lead contamination in drinking water in urban cities. Conditions that can deter or promote galvanic corrosion, however, are not well understood. Fundamental investigations exploring the mechanisms and processes involved in galvanic corrosion in drinking water could help to implement proper corrective measures to safeguard public health from lead contamination.

Abstract. This study investigates the effects of pH value, chloride and sulfate concentrations on galvanic corrosion between lead and copper in drinking water. We hypothesised that galvanic corrosion would occur immediately when a lead–copper couple is first formed and that the release of lead would be suppressed by the subsequent formation of lead corrosion products. Therefore, unlike previous long-term studies using harvested lead pipes, batch experiments employing high-purity lead and copper (99.9 %) wires under stagnant and completely mixed conditions were conducted for a 7-day period to test our hypotheses. It was found that enhanced lead release was indeed observed after the lead–copper couple was formed and the lead profiles after 48 h were strongly influenced by lead corrosion products formed in the system. Under stagnant conditions, reducing pH and increasing either chloride or sulfate concentrations promoted lead release, leading to the formation of lead corrosion products such as cerussite and hydrocerussite as experiments proceeded. The effect of chloride concentration on total lead concentration measured in the aqueous phase was similar to that of sulfate at the same molar concentration, showing that the chloride-to-sulfate mass ratio may not provide a good indication for total lead concentration in water. This study provides essential information on fundamental mechanisms and processes involved in galvanic corrosion in drinking water and may be used to explain related phenomena observed in real drinking-water distribution systems.

Additional keywords: chloride-to-sulfate mass ratio, CSMR.


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