May 22, 2020

Washington University Team Studies Aluminum in Water Pipes

When aluminum was discovered in lead scale, a Washington University team ran several experiments with a team to study aluminum in water pipes. 

drinking water

Daniel Giammar, the Walter E. Browne Professor of Environmental Engineering in the McKelvey School of Engineering at Washington University in St. Louis, ran several experiments with a team to study aluminum in water pipes. 

According to Washington University, Giammar specifically wanted to find out the following question:

"What is that aluminum doing to the behavior of the lead in the scale?" 

After conducting experiments, it was discovered that aluminum does have an effect on lead's solubility in certain conditions, reported ScienceDaily. Their results were published in late April in Environmental Science & Technology.

The experiments were carried out largely in part by visiting PhD student Guiwei Li. The researchers looked at how phosphate, aluminum and then a combination of the two, would impact a strip of lead in a jar of water. The water had a composition similar to that of most water systems. 

The jar only having aluminum did not impact the solubility of the lead strip. Instead, lead dissolved into the water at a concentration of approximately 100 micrograms per liter. In the jar with phosphate only, the concentration of lead in the water decreased from about 100 micrograms per liter to less than one.

In the jar with both, the concentration of lead in the water decreased from about 100 micrograms per liter to about 10 micrograms per liter, according to the study.

According to Giammar, although ten micrograms of lead per liter of water is below drinking water standards, it is still more lead in the water than was seen in the jar without aluminum. This ultimately will be what the team’s next experiment will explore; testing real lead pipes, reported ScienceDaily.

"This showed us things that were surprising," said Giammar. "Some people would have thought that aluminum wasn't doing anything because it's inert. But then in our work, we saw that it actually affects lead solubility."

The full study can be found here.

Read related content about lead in water here: 

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