Iron corrosion is one of the most complicated and costly problems facing drinking water utilities. A large number of parameters affect pipe corrosion, including water quality and composition, flow conditions, biological activity, and corrosion inhibitors. This work synthesizes nearly 100 years of corrosion studies in an attempt to provide the water industry with an updated understanding of factors that influence iron pipe corrosion. In particular, this paper reiterates conclusions of prior studies regarding the Langelier Index—despite its continued widespread use, the Langelier Index does not provide an effective means of controlling iron corrosion. A review of potential implications of upcoming regulations for iron corrosion is also included.



1.1Background of the Study

The corrosion process is an oxidation/reduction reaction that returns refined or processed metal to their more stable ore state. With respect to the corrosion potential of water, the primary concerns include the potential presence of toxic metals, such as lead and copper; deterioration and damage to the household plumbing, and aesthetic problems such as: stained laundry, bitter taste, and greenish-blue stains around basins and drains.

The primary health concern is the potential for the presence of elevated levels of lead and copper in the water. The primary source of the lead includes the use of lead pipes, lead lined tanks, and use of 50/50 lead/tin solder. Because of the concern with lead, the EPA banned the use of high lead solders in 1986. The primary source of copper is the leaching of copper from the household piping used to convey the water throughout the home. In some cases, the water is so corrosive that the interior plumbing system needs to be changed and completely replaced with PVC piping, PEX, or other materials. Too bad, they did not test the water and install a neutralizing system before the piping corroded and caused leaks throughout the home.

Corrosion will occur anywhere a galvanic cell or field can be or has established. To establish the field all that is needed is two dissimilar metals that are connected directly or indirectly by an electrolyte, such as water. This is the same chemical reaction that occurs within a battery.

Nearly all metals will corrode to some degree. The rate and extent of the corrosion depend on the degree of dissimilarity of the metals and the physical and chemical characteristics of the media, metal, and environment. In water that is soft, corrosion occurs because of the lack of dissolved cations, such as calcium and magnesium in the water. In scale forming water, a precipitate or coating of calcium or magnesium carbonate forms on the inside of the piping. This coating can inhibit the corrosion of the pipe because it acts as a barrier, but it can also cause the pipe to clog. Water with high levels of sodium, chloride, or other ions will increase the conductivity of the water and promote corrosion. Corrosion can also be accelerated by: