Uni and Yorkshire Water team up to reduce lead in tap water
University of Huddersfield scientists and Yorkshire Water have joined forces to help reduce the traces of lead occasionally found in tap water.
The university has been supplied with equipment from treatment plants, including rigs that mimic the lead pipes that connect to the mains in some older houses. The equipment will enable project leader Dr Jeremy Hopwood and postdoctoral researcher Dr Taher Rabizadeh to simulate aspects of domestic plumbing systems, and replicate the problems that can arise from the lead piping that still connects a large number of homes to the mains.
A key aim of the £305,000 project is to identify whether any further improvements can be achieved by changes to water chemistry to reduce exposure to lead.
For their experiments and analysis, the two chemists will use both tap water and water that they have synthesised in the new lab. They will probe the effects of pipeline corrosion and will also investigate whether different levels of treatment are required in Yorkshire’s hard and soft water areas.
Yorkshire Water is funding the research as part of its long-term strategy to remove lead where it can, and minimise lead solubility elsewhere. It estimates around 900,000 properties in the region have some lead pipe associated with them.
Another key aim is to ensure compliance with the current legal UK limit of 10 micrograms of lead per litre.
The University of Huddersfield has a long-standing research relationship with Yorkshire Water and also taking part in the research are Professor Paul Humphreys and Dr Gemma Sweeney, alongside the utility’s Jenny Banks, John Haley and Stephen Coleman.
One strand of the project will focus on the “particulate lead” that can be found in tap water as a result of corrosion in the lead service piping that links houses to the water main and within the property and responsibility of householders. In addition to their lab work with the lead rigs, the university researchers will analyse water samples taken from homes across Yorkshire which reflect the range of water types found.
A key area of the research will be an examination of the techniques, such as the addition of phosphate that are adopted by water companies to control lead solubility said Dr Hopwood, but a region such as Yorkshire has different types of water, hard and soft, dependent on alkalinity levels and dependent on the source.
For example, water from upland reservoirs in the Pennines will tend to be soft, while water taken from rivers, and in area such as the Vale of York, is hard. This results in subtle differences in the minerals formed when water, including phosphate, comes into contact with the surface of lead pipe.
The aim is to develop a mathematical model, including factors such as alkalinity, which can predict lead levels, meaning that Yorkshire Water can review its current reduction strategies at treatment plants and these could be further tailored to the nature of the local water chemistry.
Another important strand of the 27-month project will be an investigation of the solubility of lead phosphate minerals. This will be achieved through using water from a range of sources.
- Yorkshire Water and sister firm Keyland win Green Apple award Sustainability at Esholt wastewater treatment works in Bradford has earned Yorkshire Water and Keyland Developments a... Read More >
- MOSL's chief executive to step down Market Operator Services Limited (MOSL) has begun the hunt for a new chief executive to succeed Ben Jeffs, who has... Read More >
- Safety improvements completed at Yorkshire reservoir Yorkshire Water has finished the main construction phase of a project to make essential safety improvements at Stubden... Read More >
- Getting to Grips with… highway pollution Pollution from urban highways, trunk roads and motorways poses significant risks to the environment from toxic metals and... Read More >
- Comment: Moving sensors from the lab to the real world Innovative sensor technologies of various materials are out there - the key now is to apply them effectively and to make... Read More >
- Corrosion of water pipes: out of sight, out of mind? Pipe corrosion is a major cause of water quality complaints by customers, but how often is the water itself responsible... Read More >
- Top tips for... analyser maintenance Keeping continuous water analysers well maintained is vital to ensure you can rely on the information they provide, writes... Read More >
- Data: Predictive analysis pays off for Welsh Water Data scientists at Welsh Water built an analysis tool that can predict when service reservoirs are at risk of bacterial... Read More >