Galvanic Corrosion of Lead by Iron

Trueman BF, Sweet GA, Harding MD, Estabrook H, Bishop DP, Gagnon GA. Galvanic Corrosion of Lead by Iron (Oxyhydr)oxides: Potential Impacts on Drinking Water Quality. Environmental science and technology. 2017 May 30. doi: 10.1021/acs.est.7b01671.

Lead exposure via drinking water remains a significant public health risk; this study explored the potential effects of upstream iron corrosion on lead mobility in water distribution systems. Specifically, galvanic corrosion of lead by iron (oxyhydr)oxides was investigated. Coupling an iron mineral cathode with metallic lead in a galvanic cell increased lead release by 531 µg L-1 on average-a nine-fold increase over uniform corrosion in the absence of iron. Cathodes were composed of spark plasma sintered Fe3O4 or α-Fe2O3 or field-extracted Fe3O4 and α-FeOOH. Orthophosphate immobilized oxidized lead as insoluble hydroxypyromorphite, while humic acid enhanced lead mobility. Addition of a humic isolate increased lead release due to uniform corrosion by 81 µg L-1 and-upon coupling lead to a mineral cathode-release due to galvanic corrosion by 990 µg L-1. Elevated lead in the presence of humic acid appeared to be driven by complexation, with 208Pb and UV254size-exclusion chromatograms exhibiting strong correlation under these conditions (R2average = 0.87). A significant iron corrosion effect was consistent with field data: lead levels after lead service line replacement were greater by factors of 2.3 – 4.7 at sites supplied by unlined cast iron distribution mains compared with the alternative, lined ductile iron.

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