You’ve probably heard that water is the ultimate solvent. Given enough time and enough flow, water has the potential to dissolve anything, including rock. When it comes to the metal plumbing pipes in your building, you should keep watch for corrosive water, which is water that has a pH of less than 7. Water with a pH value of less than 7 is typically considered corrosive or acidic water, and it has the power to slowly dissolve pipes. The bad news is that as the water passes through the pipes, components from the pipes, like lead and copper, can leach into your drinking water at a higher rate than with water that is not acidic.
Corrosive Water and Copper Pipes
Copper pipes are designed to last up to 50 years and sometimes longer with proper maintenance. It is estimated that more than 85 percent of all homes in the United States contain copper piping, and there’s a good chance that your residential building in Chicago also contains copper piping. While copper piping is a great choice for all types of plumbing applications due to its longevity, resistance to bacterial growth, and ability to transport both hot and cold water, it does have some drawbacks.
If your building was built prior to the 1980s, lead solder was probably used to seal the joints of your copper pipes. Over time, the lead in the solder can leach into your water, especially if you have water with a low pH. Water with a pH of less than 7 can also lead to pinhole leaks, blowouts, and water damage. This is because acidic water slowly eats away at the interior walls of your plumbing pipes, creating pits.
Harms of Copper Leaching
Copper is primarily known for its benefits, not its drawbacks. After all, copper is considered corrosion-resistant and anti-bacterial. It’s corrosion-resistant because the copper develops a green or blue-green patina that protects the metal. If you need an example of this, you can take a look at pictures of the Statue of Liberty or your neighbor’s copper roof if it’s been on their home for a few years. However, you don’t want a lot of copper in your drinking water. Consuming excessive amounts of copper particles can lead to diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, and stomach cramps. In severe cases, it can lead to liver and kidney damage, and it’s extremely harmful to children under 12 months of age.
If you suspect your home or building has excessive copper in the water, you’ll want to have the water tested for copper and other harmful chemicals and metals. According to the Minnesota Department of Health, no one should drink water with more than 1300 micrograms of copper in it. You should also advise the residents of your building to let the water run for 30 to 60 seconds before drinking it or using it to cook. Additionally, if you are cooking with water or making baby formula, always use cold water. Hot water leeches more copper than cold.
Harms of Lead Leaching
If you haven’t heard by now, Chicago has a problem with lead water pipes in the municipal system. In fact, it’s so prevalent that in December of 2021, President Biden called for all the lead pipes in Chicago to be removed within the next ten years. Of course, if you’re wondering how Chicago got so many lead pipes, it’s because lead pipes were required to be used to supply water to homes and smaller apartment buildings for more than a century, and the practice didn’t end until 1986 when it was banned.
The bad news is that there is no safe amount of lead you can consume. For children, consuming lead is extremely dangerous. It can cause brain and nervous system damage. It can lead to intellectual and developmental delays, and severe lead poisoning can cause convulsions, comas, and loss of life.
The EPA recommends that people in Chicago have their water tested for lead. Homeowners and business owners should be aware of any work in the area that could disturb the lead service line to your building because that can release lead particles into the water at a higher concentration. To minimize the amount of lead in your drinking water, only use cold water to cook and make baby formula. Use a water filter that filters out lead, regularly check and clean aerators, and make sure to only purchase faucets, pipes, and other plumbing materials that are lead-free. Lastly, consider replacing the lead service line or having it coated with epoxy to prevent leaching.
Combating Corrosive Water and Chemical Leaching in Chicago
If you suspect the water in your Chicago residential building is corrosive or acidic, you should take steps to prevent chemical leaching from any copper and lead pipes while you develop a plan to restore the safety of your potable water. One of the ways you can limit the contaminants in your water is by periodically flushing the system. Flushing the system involves turning on the water at the taps and running it until it becomes extremely cold, indicating that fresh water from the municipal water supply has entered the pipes.
However, flushing the pipes is not a long-term viable solution for keeping your potable water safe for drinking, bathing, and cleaning. If you haven’t had your water tested for its pH level and any dissolved contaminants, you should collect samples and have them tested by a qualified and trusted lab. If your water comes back with a pH of less than 7, and you know you have copper or lead pipes in or around your Chicago building, consider having your plumbing pipes lined with epoxy, which is a solution for stopping the further deterioration of your corroded pipes and preventing lead, copper and other chemicals from leaching into your building’s water supply.
Preventing Corroded Pipes with Epoxy Pipe Liners from NuFlow
Here at Nuflow, we offer epoxy pipe liners and coatings for potable water pipes and drain lines. Our liners and coatings are designed to seal your pipes, which helps stop pinhole leaks and further damage from acidic water. The process of installing the liners also has benefits. Before we can install your liner or epoxy coating, we remove all the corrosion and debris from inside the pipes, which helps restore the interior diameter. This improves water flow while extending the life of your current plumbing pipes.
To learn more about how we can help prevent chemical leaching with our pipe lining services, contact us at 815-790-9000.