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  • 1.  Will Leadite joints contaminate drinking water?

    Posted 08-31-2018 10:55 AM
    Edited by Tirza Austin 08-31-2018 10:55 AM

    A town I am working with currently utilizes cast iron pipes with Leadite joints for their drinking water system which is approximately 80 years old. My questions are as follows: is there actually lead in the Leadite joints? If so, is there a possibility that the lead in the joints can come in contact with and contaminate the water in the pipes?

    We know that New York City has a policy where they replace any pipes with Leadite joints that they encounter. We do not know if New York City does this as standard practice due to the age of the pipes or because it is a preventative measure to ensure no future contamination. Should the town in question also replace their pipes in a similar fashion?

    Does anyone here have any experience with Leadite joints? Should contamination from the Leadite joints be a concern? How would you approach this situation with health concerns as well as expense in mind?

    Thank you.

    Carmela Roberts P.E., M.ASCE
    Roberts Engineering Group LLC
    Hamilton NJ
    (609) 586-1141

  • 2.  RE: Will Leadite joints contaminate drinking water?

    Posted 09-01-2018 10:29 AM
    Edited by Tirza Austin 09-01-2018 10:29 AM
    I think the following link will be helpful for yourself. Lead is not good for drinking water. Get rid of it.

    Jackson water system contains lead joints

    Sumit Kumar Ghosh S.M.ASCE

  • 3.  RE: Will Leadite joints contaminate drinking water?

    Posted 09-01-2018 10:29 AM
    Edited by Tirza Austin 09-01-2018 10:28 AM
    Dear Carmela,

    The best safety measure is to eliminate any lead from construction elements, especially if they are used to transport drinking water.
    My suggestion is to perform a "leaching" test where you can introduce a section of these leadite joints into a cube of drinking water. You should test water quality parameters before, during and after almost 1 year to test if there is any lead in the water. 
    I hope it helps.

    Andres Guzman Ing., M.ASCE

  • 4.  RE: Will Leadite joints contaminate drinking water?

    Posted 09-01-2018 10:44 PM
    Edited by Tirza Austin 09-01-2018 10:44 PM
    Please note that leadite does not contain lead.  It was made with primarily a plasticized mixture of iron and sulfur.  It was used from 1920 through the 1960's and proved to be an ineffective mechanism for joining pipes due to development of corrosion and splitting.  However, it would be best to get samples of this supposed leadite material for analysis - one never knows what compound might have been used, regardless of what might be reported on as built drawings or other records.  Any component containing lead is completely inappropriate for use in any part of a drinking water distribution system, and should be programmed for removal as soon as possible.  Monitoring for lead in the system should be stepped up, if it is not already - lead has a slightly higher oxidation potential than iron, so it will naturally act as a sacrificial anode for the iron piping, albeit this is only one way lead ions can find their way into the drinking water.

    Patrick Vasicek P.E., M.ASCE
    Senior Civil Engineer
    Art Anderson Associates
    Bremerton WA

  • 5.  RE: Will Leadite joints contaminate drinking water?

    Posted 09-02-2018 10:38 AM
    Edited by Tirza Austin 09-02-2018 10:40 AM
    ​Hi Carmela,

    I agree that getting rid of lead in a water distribution system is the right thing to do.  However, with limited resources, I think that you need to determine how much of the source of lead is likely to contaminate the water and then chose a method to reduce or eliminate that risk. 

    I think first you have to understand if the joint sealing method was leadtite (LT) or caulked and poured lead joint (PLJ).  I don't know when the transition was being made from PLJ to LT.  But, some limited research shows that around 1930 both LT and PLJ were being discussed in engineering manuals.  There is some limited discussion of it in the 2002 EPA document: "Deteriorating Buried Infrastructure, Management Challenges and Strategies." It is likely that the system you are involved with is not all LT or PLJ.

    Lead contamination is not likely a problem with LT because it was made with little or no lead.  PLJ, in my opinion, is also an unlikely source for lead contamination.  Review the construction of a poured lead joint and you find that the first step after inserting the plain end into the hub is to place a hemp packing into the joint.  The hemp makes the seal.  Then to keep the packing in place, lead is poured in the space remaining in the hub.  I think that because the lead is not in direct contact with water travelling in the pipe and the fact that the water contacting the lead is escaping the pipe not going to the consumer are reasons why lead contamination is not a major concern to water quality.

    However, it would seem that reasonable attempts to isolate the lead from the water is a good idea.  This can be done with various relining techniques for the cast Iron pipe.  At 80 years old, the pipe is likely in need of rehabilitation or replacement for reasons other than PLJ removal.  It would seem that a knee-jerk reaction to replace the pipe due to PLJ is not a wise use of resources, but, you need to allow for the community to determine what the wisest use of resources is in their opinion.

    Hopefully, this is some help.  Good luck, Bart

    Bart Clark , PE
    Warren CT

  • 6.  RE: Will Leadite joints contaminate drinking water?

    Posted 09-03-2018 06:32 PM
    Edited by Tel Jensen 09-04-2018 12:05 PM
    Would not adjusting pH and adding orthophosphate to water pretty well prevent lead contamination until such time as lead elements can be removed from a distribution system?

    Tel Jensen