Pipe replacement involves total replacement of all lead pipes from the public sections of the water main, and all potable water piping located on an individual property all the way to the customers’ tap.
The only way to guarantee the elimination of lead in the water system is to replace all pipes. But in most cases, the city is only responsible for the “public” sections of the pipe. Many cities have tried partial pipe replacement in hopes of reducing lead levels enough to meet health standards, but many studies have shown this to be ineffective, and in many cases to cause raised levels of lead.
Problems with Pipe Replacement
Full pipe replacement rarely occurs due to the limitations on the city’s responsibility to homeowners and the piping systems on their personal property. Even when the city lines the public sections of pipes, homeowners are resposible for all pipes on their property. Not only can this be a financial burden to some homeowners, but it is also very destructive to replace all pipes on a property and within the walls.
Partial replacement may cause more damage than it does good, leading to significant unintended health risks. Several studies have shown a spike in lead levels after a partial pipe replacement. Partial replacements can shake loose fragments of lead that have built up inside the pipe and push them into a homeowners’ water. This causes a higher level of lead in the water than there was before the replacement.
In addition, when a partial replacement joins old lead pipes to new copper pipes using brass fittings, it causes galvanic corrosion, which can drastically increase the amount of lead into drinking water supplies.
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