Disinfectants and Plumbing Materials: Effects on the Sensory and Chemical Characteristics of Drinking Water
Durand, Monique Lucia
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The distribution system is the primary cause of taste and odor complaints in drinking water. This research examined the ability of small diameter pipes used in home plumbing to affect drinking water quality. The properties of the materials were investigated in the absence of disinfectant and the presence of either chlorine or chloramines. A panel was trained in flavor profile analysis (FPA) according to Standard Methods 2170B and used to assess the sensory properties of all samples. Chemical analyses were performed to determine disinfectants, total organic carbon (TOC), pH and specific organic contaminants. The first part of this study investigated PEX pipes manufactured by the silane (PEX-b) and peroxide (PEX-a) cross-linking technology, using the utility quick test (UQT) method. Silane PEX-b had a greater effect on water quality properties such as odor, TOC and residual disinfectant demand than peroxide-linked PEX-a. Chemical analysis revealed that PEX pipes can contribute fuel oxygenates such as ETBE (PEX-b) and possibly MTBE (PEX-a) to drinking water. PEX pipes did not contribute any significant trihalomethanes to drinking water. This study showed that the type of PEX used in homes will determine the extent to which drinking water quality is affected. The second part of this study used simulated plumbing rigs to investigate seven different materials under low flow and stagnant conditions; chlorinated polyvinyl chloride, cross-linked polyethylene, polyethylene, epoxy-lined copper, copper, stainless steel, galvanized iron and glass (control). Results showed that these plumbing materials have the potential to affect water quality characteristics such as TOC concentrations, residual disinfectant and odor when newly installed in homes. A high TOC concentration was consistent with the presence of a distinct odor or a high FPA intensity rating. Galvanized iron produced the worst odors that were consistently described as "motor oil". Polyethylene generated more intense plumbing associated odors than PEX or cPVC plastic material. cPVC and copper generated the least odors. Both copper pipe and epoxy-lined copper consumed residual chlorine and chloramines.
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