EXAMINING ASPECTS OF COPPER AND BRASS CORROSION IN DRINKING WATER
As the water industry complies with the new arsenic standard and new treatments are installed, unintended consequences might be expected in relation to corrosion control when sulfate/chloride ratio, pH, phosphate, iron, aluminum, bicarbonate and organic matter levels are altered. In some cases, these changes will be beneficial and in other detrimental.
This research project is the first to systematically evaluate the effect of some key changes in the chemistry of the treated water in relation to copper and brass corrosion control. A 1.25 year pipe rig experiment was executed to anticipate effects of arsenic treatment on copper pinholes in 10 representative waters. The control water will mimic a synthesized version of Potomac River that is extremely aggressive to copper. Consistent with prior research that pitting is driven by free chlorine in this water and inhibited by phosphate, substitution of chloramine for chlorine or dosing of phosphate completely eliminated deep pits on tubes for the duration of the experiment. Chlorine caused serious pitting if NOM was less than 0.3 mg/L over a range of Cl:SO4 ratios. Pitting seemed to occur under deposits of iron or aluminum on the copper surface, and if anything, an equimolar amount of iron caused worse pitting than aluminum. Amendment of the aggressive water with 3 mg/L NOM eliminated growth of deep pits (> 0.05 mm).
While brass pipes (containing 0.09% lead, 63% copper and 36% zinc) was attacked non-uniformally by an aggressive water at high pH and with high Cl2 content, no significant pitting occurred at any condition tested, even though pitting did occur for copper exposed to the exact same water. The implication is that zinc in the alloy may help to prevent non-uniform attack on copper and copper alloys.
The ban on lead-containing plumbing materials in the Safe Drinking Water Act (1986) and the EPA Lead and Copper Rule (1991) have successfully reduced lead contamination of potable water supplies. This part of the work carefully re-examined the lead contamination concern from the standpoint of existing performance standards for brass. The ANSI/NSF 61, Section 8 standard is relied on to protect the public from in-line brass plumbing products that might leach excessive levels of lead to potable water. Experiments were conducted to look at the practical strictness of these test-standards. In-depth study of the standard revealed serious flaws due from the use of a phosphate buffer and a failure to control carbonate dissolution from the atmosphere in the test waters. In order to help prevent undesirable outcomes in the future, standards improvements are needed to assurance that brass devices passing this test are safe.