Getting the Lead Out


Government regulations and standards have tightened over the years, driving public and private sectors in the direction of a lead-free environment. Municipalities, utilities and property managers alike have had to adapt to the changes and find solutions that can accommodate their needs and their budgets to provide a safe water source for communities consuming the water.

As these parties continue to find ways to improve their domestic water systems feeding homes and businesses, the public interest on the issue of lead piping and the adverse health effects continues to grow. Some may not be aware that the issue does not solely lie outside homes but it can also be an issue with internal dated systems and fixtures. They may also be unaware of the monitoring and renewal programs being used to update piping systems more efficiently and without damage to walls, ceilings and floors.

Before the concerns of potential toxicity of lead arose, the United States started installing the lead on a major scale in the 1800s. More than 70 percent of cities with populations greater than 30,000 used lead service lines by the 1900s. Lead piping was used because of its ability to resist pinhole leaks, while being able to form into shapes that deliver water most efficiently. Although not all homes built prior to the 1980s contain lead pipes, nearly all still have lead solder connecting copper pipes.

It became clear in recent decades that the lead that once seemed like a great solution for pipes was causing serious harm when too much was ingested. Adults and especially children were beginning to suffer when exposed to constant and excessive amounts of lead in their drinking water.

Today, the NSF/ANSI Standard 372 dictates that a product has been certified as meeting a weighted average lead content of ≤0.25 percent when used with respect to the wetted surfaces of pipes, pipe fittings, plumbing fittings and fixtures.
It is essential to the nation’s health that lead piping systems comply with the standards and be upgraded, but this is an enormous task that will cost billions of dollars in order to achieve a completely ‘lead-free’ environment. In the meantime, the best protection for the U.S. public is continual upgrading, testing and monitoring of water systems to know what minerals and in what amount is leaching into water.

The City of New York, for example, has adapted a Free Residential Lead Testing Program that allows residents and landlords to request a free kit and the Department of Environmental Protection will test the drinking water sample for lead content.

Commonly, the first thought after discovering a lead problem is that all pipes need to be replaced. This misconception can be an expensive, time consuming and disruptive task that isn’t ideal when pipes are located behind finished walls and ceilings or part of historic structures. Cities and property owners could break budgets during a replacement period that often leaves residents and tenants disturbed or displaced during the process, which is why many are looking into a nonintrusive epoxy barrier coatings to coat the existing internal pipe walls as a solution.

Pipe lining technology has recently started to become a more popular solution because of its many benefits in conjunction with its compliance with NSF/ANSI Standard 372. Typically, lining a pipe is half the price and has a longer life expectancy when compared to an entirely new pipe system. Another factor that is drawing more people towards lining technology is the non-disruptive and non-destructive application.

One example is a process from pipe rehabilitation company, Nu Flow called Nu Line, a blown-in epoxy barrier coating for potable water systems and a patented process that has many uses including a solution against internal lead pipe systems. To start the rehabilitation process, the inside of the pipe is cleaned to remove any built up debris. Once the pipe is ready and has the necessary anchor tooth profile for epoxy to adhere to, a two-part epoxy solution is mixed, poured inside and blown through the system with heated compressed air, which allows the epoxy to adhere to it. Afterwards, a camera is inserted to ensure the piping system has been coated properly.

The epoxy liner serves as a barrier to ensure lead isn’t leaching into the water. Nu Line has a life expectancy of more than 100 years, which is much longer than a typical pipe. Future generations no longer have to worry about the tap water that they drink or consume. The barrier coating provided by the process will stop pinhole leaks and pipe deterioration – both of which are other areas of concern when laying a new pipe. This is a great solution for municipalities and managers to ensure the water they’re providing to different communities is safe to drink.

Nu Flow’s patented Nu Line epoxy technology is approved to meet with NSF/ANSI Standard 372 that is enforced throughout the United States. Meeting this lead-free standard is something that has to be done to ensure that homes, businesses and public spaces offer safe, potable water.

Dated lead pipes have recently become a growing concern for Americans. While some are on private property for the homeowners to replace, others fall under the responsibility of municipalities, utilities and property managers. Lining lead pipes rather than replacing them is a cost-effective and non-disruptive solution that could stop harmful amounts of lead from leaching into water across the country.

Alyscia Sutch is the marketing and public relations manager for the pipeline rehabilitation company, Nu Flow.

NSF/ANSI Standard 372 dictates that a product has been certified as meeting a weighted average lead content of ≤0.25 percent when used with respect to the wetted surfaces of pipes, pipe fittings, plumbing fittings and fixtures. 


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