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Lead in Galvanized Pipe

mattmia2
mattmia2 Member Posts: 2,845
In the nova about the Flint water problem they claimed that galvanized pipe contained lead. Is this true? If so, where was it, was it added to the zinc coating for some reason? Was a containment in the zinc? Was it added to the steel for some reason? If it was part of the pipe, what concentration was it, was it a couple percent or was it a major component?

I know that lead from other sources could become part of the scale in galvanized pipe, but I didn't know the pipe itself contained lead.

Comments

  • hot_rod
    hot_rod Member Posts: 14,738
    Yes, older galvanized pipe did contain lead. Also the brass valves and fittings
    Bob "hot rod" Rohr
    trainer for Caleffi NA
    Living the hydronic dream
    mattmia2
  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 2,845
    I knew brass and copper before had a small amount of lead added to make it more machinable before 2015 or so but what would be the reason for galvanized pipe?
  • Larry Weingarten
    Larry Weingarten Member Posts: 2,122
    Hi, My understanding is that lead helped the zinc flow better and do a better job of coating the pipe. B)

    Yours. Larry
    mattmia2
  • ChrisJ
    ChrisJ Member Posts: 11,537
    Best I could find online is the lead would be one possible impurity in the zinc bath. Also the pipe could have trapped lead from older mains etc and could release it.
    Single pipe quasi-vapor system. Typical operating pressure 0.14 - 0.43 oz. EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Control for Residential Steam boilers. Rectorseal Steamaster water treatment
  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 2,845
    So since the galvanizing is long gone in any potable water piping, the lead also is, and it wasn't much to begin with since it was just alloyed with the zinc?
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 15,702
    mattmia2 said:

    So since the galvanizing is long gone in any potable water piping, the lead also is, and it wasn't much to begin with since it was just alloyed with the zinc?

    Pretty much. The real problems came from lead pipe service lines, which were -- and in some places probably still are -- pretty common.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
    mattmia2
  • hot_rod
    hot_rod Member Posts: 14,738
    I think the main issue is that only certain water conditions will cause the lead to de-alloy from brass and galvanized pipe

    Domestic water piping quickly builds up a coating from the minerals in water. Unless an aggressive water treatment or water condition strips away that protective coating, the pipe is safe for potable water.

    That is my understanding about what happened in Flint?

    Some scientists suggest fixing the water! Not the pipe.

    The same applies to boiler water, fix the water before you fill the hydronic system for best results.
    Bob "hot rod" Rohr
    trainer for Caleffi NA
    Living the hydronic dream
    mattmia2Zman
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 15,702
    It is, basically, what happened in Flint. The water source was changed, but the water treatment chemistry was not changed to suit -- and, not knowing the new water source chemistry, I'm not able to say what changes should or could have been made. That said, it's really amazing what can be done in terms of water treatment to keep the water safe and sanitary, and not too aggressive, and so on.

    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • ChrisJ
    ChrisJ Member Posts: 11,537
    Why is what's going on in Flint allowed?

    For that matter why are lead connections allowed?!? Isn't that a bit rediculous? If you're selling a house it better not have any exposed lead paint but no one cares if the water company is feeding it water with a lead connection.
    Single pipe quasi-vapor system. Typical operating pressure 0.14 - 0.43 oz. EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Control for Residential Steam boilers. Rectorseal Steamaster water treatment
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 8,260
    Lead was allowed in the past.....some of these lines may be nearly a century old.

    Supposedly lead contributed to the fall of the Roman Empire; The wine cups were made of lead.

    "Plumber"......from old Latin....one who works with lead.
    "Pb" symbol element of lead.....from old Latin...."Plumbum".

    We had/have some lead "gooseneck" (24-30") connectors on our old (80+years old) water mains to allow alignment of galv iron pipe connections for water services.
    These are removed when possible.
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 15,702
    ChrisJ said:

    Why is what's going on in Flint allowed?



    For that matter why are lead connections allowed?!? Isn't that a bit rediculous? If you're selling a house it better not have any exposed lead paint but no one cares if the water company is feeding it water with a lead connection.

    It's not allowed. Now. 100 years ago it was quite normal.

    And yes, lead may have had something to do with the degradation of Roman society -- though there were other factors. Not only the wine cups (at least for the lower classes) but the little pipes which brought water from the aqueducts in the fountains and houses of the quality...
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • hot_rod
    hot_rod Member Posts: 14,738
    Galvanized pipe was allowed in Chicago up until 1986 from what I read, probably other areas also.

    Lead has never been a problem unless you ingest or consume it, don't eat or inhale the paint of your walls.

    Usually when you cut open old galvanized pipe it has a substantial layer of mineral, rust, slime build up inside.
    Bob "hot rod" Rohr
    trainer for Caleffi NA
    Living the hydronic dream
  • Larry Weingarten
    Larry Weingarten Member Posts: 2,122
    Hi, One other little tid-bit about Romans and lead was that the soldiers were fed fruit snacks. The fruit was acidic and made on lead trays. Guess what... that might have something to do with why the soldiers had a reputation for going berserk pretty easily. :o

    Yours, Larry
  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 2,845
    Flint was supplied by Detroit water. The Detroit water department supplies water to a large portion of southeast Michigan (technically it is the great lakes water authority or something like that now), but it is the water works that supplies Detroit and started supplying the suburbs as they grew. Detroit has been treating water for over 100 years.

    Flint changed to processing their own water under the state emergency manager to save money. I suspect the lowest bidder wasn't the right person to learn what Detroit has understood for a century. Flint has a water plant form the 50's that was reopened. Federal regulations require treatment of water to control corrosion if the water is corrosive. The people running the water works falsified the test data to avoid using corrosion control. Millions of other houses in other cites have lead services. In most cities some or all of the service is owned by the homeowner. In Flint in particular the property owners don't have the money to replace their services.

    Ann Arbor where I live had hundreds of galvanized services with lead goosenecks making the bend to the main. Over the past 25-30 years the city has been replacing their portion of the service as the roads were repaved. In Ann Arbor the service up to the curb stop is the city's and the service from the curb stop to the house is the property owner's. Other than a street where the information about galvanized services was incorrect, the program to replace the galvanized services was completed a few years ago. the city is now going back and replacing the howmowners' portion of those galvanized services over concerns that the lead from the gooseneck may have become part of the scale in the galvanized piping.

    This has very much gone off the rails from my original question.
  • ChrisJ
    ChrisJ Member Posts: 11,537
    edited May 2020
    I think everyone missed my point.
    Those existing lead lines are allowed to be left in use by the water companies. That's what I have a problem with.

    I know they're not still installing them. Although I swear I saw something that said they were still installing them in some areas up to something like the early 80s which seems nuts.
    Single pipe quasi-vapor system. Typical operating pressure 0.14 - 0.43 oz. EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Control for Residential Steam boilers. Rectorseal Steamaster water treatment
  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 2,845
    edited May 2020
    We didn't start removing lead from plumbing until i think it was 1986. That was when the plumbing code banned 50/50 solder for potable water. I think it was seen as solid and not likely to get in to the water(regular gas stayed around for a few more years and you could buy tetraethyl lead as an additive for another 10 or so years after that). The use of lead pipe in other applications was only stopped for practical reasons, it was fragile and difficult to work, the concerns weren't health related.

    I think Chicago was still installing lead services in to the 80's. I'd imagine it is a lot easier to roll out and get to lay in the trench than copper.
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 8,260
    I would say it is down to money.
    Those who own and are responsible for the lead piping don't have the money.........including the Muni water company and homeowners.

    There may be some fed money thrown that way towards Flint.
    There was a Utube about private contractors replacing lines using horizontal boring. The contractor mentioned another one down and only several thousand more to go.
  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 2,845
    JUGHNE said:

    I would say it is down to money.
    Those who own and are responsible for the lead piping don't have the money.........including the Muni water company and homeowners.

    That is a problem all throughout everything in the US. Everyone thinks they just have to buy something once and they don't have to maintain or replace it.

    Filint has the added problem that they were lied to so even if it becomes/when it became safe the residents aren't going to believe anyone until the lead is gone.

  • hot_rod
    hot_rod Member Posts: 14,738
    Some water treatment companies add chemicals, different blends of phosphates to put a coating inside water lines.

    I think you would need to do ongoing testing in your home to know exactly what is in your water.

    There is filtration that can remove most any harmful part of water once you determine what you have and what you want to remove.

    Take a sample to a lab so you have a baseline and idea what you are drinking

    https://cen.acs.org/articles/93/web/2015/03/Lead-Dioxide-Coating-Pipes-Help.html
    Bob "hot rod" Rohr
    trainer for Caleffi NA
    Living the hydronic dream
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 15,702
    Actually, most water supply companies add several chemicals to the water on its way to your from wherever. What they add -- and why -- depends on what the source water quality is. Some companies -- Boston area's water supply, Hartford, CT, New York City -- have very high quality raw water from well protected surface water supplies. They don't need to add much beyond disinfection (usually chloramines) and fluoride (dental health) once the water goes past the filters. Other water supplies which come from rivers or wells may have to also add pH stabilizing buffers as well (the filtration for that type of supply is much more complex, but needn't worry us here!). Colour and odour can sometimes be a problem in some surface water supplies, and is amazingly difficult to treat. Water from deep well supplies may have to be softened; water companies don't use ion exchange, though -- there are better processes for large flows. Some water supplies will need iron or manganese removal or both.

    High total dissolved solids from salt can be a major problem -- and, in fact, has ruined a number of water supplies in more northern areas (road salt in wells or reservoirs). Generally it is not practical to treat for it.

    Many companies do add phosphate for corrosion protection.

    Both the Federal EPA and relevant State authorities have very strict requirements for public water supply. The general treatment philosophy is to use a combination of protection (not always possible) and filtration with chemical addition for filter aids as needed to produce a finished water which meets those standards, and then add only disinfection, fluoride, and pH buffers, and sometimes phosphate to that water for distribution.

    You should be able to find the information on your water quality from your supplier or State environmental people, if you are on a public water supply. You may also be able to find information on what treatment processes are used to produce the finished water, but you should be aware that they may change as needed -- and without notice.

    If you are on a private water supply, you will have to take samples to a laboratory or sometimes, for minimal testing, to your public health people.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
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