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Profiling Private Water Systems to Identify Patterns of Waterborne Lead Exposure

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journal contribution
posted on 03.11.2015 by Kelsey J. Pieper, Leigh-Anne Krometis, Daniel Gallagher, Brian Benham, Marc Edwards
Although extensive literature documents corrosion in municipal water systems, only minimal data is available describing corrosion in private water systems (e.g., wells), which serve as a primary source of drinking water for approximately 47 million Americans. This study developed a profiling technique specifically tailored to evaluate lead release in these systems. When applied in an intensive field study of 15 private systems, three patterns of lead release were documented: no elevated lead or lead elevated in the first draw only (Type I), erratic spikes of particulate lead (Type II), and sustained detectable lead concentrations (Type III). While flushing protocols as short as 15–30 s may be sufficient to reduce lead concentrations below 15 μg/L for Types I and III exposure, flushing may not be an appropriate remediation strategy for Type II exposure. In addition, the sustained detectable lead concentrations observed with Type III exposure likely result from corrosion of components within the well and therefore cannot be reduced with increased flushing. As profiling techniques are labor- and sample-intensive, we discuss recommendations for simpler sampling schemes for initial private system surveys aimed at quantifying lead and protecting public health.