CA City Bans Use of Galvanized Pipes


Fresno is the latest California city to ban the use of galvanized water pipes in new construction and major renovation amid fears of corrosion and drinking-water contamination.

According to the Fresno Bee, Fresno City Council vote 6-0 on Aug. 18 to prohibit galvanized pipe for plumbing within city limits. There have been increasing complaints this year about discoloration in water in the city’s northeast section, and concerns that some homes have elevated lead content in their drinking water.

Change in Water Supply

According to reports, in 2004, Fresno put a new water-treatment facility into service in northeast Fresno, incorporating both groundwater and surface water. Civil engineer Vernon Snoeyink, called in to help understand the nature of the problem, told the Bee that while the groundwater that had previously been used in northeast Fresno was relatively noncorrosive, the surface water being incorporated now may cause more corrosion in galvanized pipes in homes.

The majority of Fresno's water comes from the Fresno Sole Source Aquifer. According to Fresno's government website, an additional surface water treatment plant, in southeast Fresno, is planned.

When galvanized steel pipes are corroded, they can release iron and zinc, as well as lead that may have accumulated inside the pipes while lead service lines were in place in the past. According to the D.C. Water and Sewer Authority, even if lead service lines have been replaced, lead from previous service lines can remain in galvanized in-home plumbing.

Public Health Allegation

A woman living in northeast Fresno recently came forward as having been diagnosed with a lead-related disorder in 2014, and blamed her elevated lead levels on Fresno water. The TV station that reported that story notes that there is no clear evidence that the illness was caused by drinking water, or that the water in the home where she lived at the time had dangerous lead levels.

Galvanized pipe with external corrosion
By j.miner, CC-BY-SA via Flickr

When galvanized iron pipes are corroded, they can release iron and zinc, as well as lead that may have accumulated inside the pipes while lead service lines were in place in the past.

Despite residents’ worries, corrosion expert Marc Edwards, also hired by the city to study the problem, told reporters that ““at this point, there is really no indication at all that there’s a lead problem in Fresno,” according to the Bee. Edwards has also studied corrosion in water pipes in Flint, MI, where lead in drinking water became a massive public health crisis last year.

Fresno’s ordinance banning galvanized pipes notes that other California cities, including Santa Clara, San Diego and Irvine, have already enacted bans.

New Water Official

In July, when the ordinance banning the pipes was first introduced, other legislation was introduced as well: a bill changing the way Fresno reports water-related problems to the state of California, and a bill that would create rebates and low-interest loans for homeowners replacing potentially problematic plumbing. Those pieces have not yet moved forward.

In July, the director of Fresno’s water division was placed on leave amid allegations he did not properly report issues with water quality to state officials. On Monday (Aug. 22), Fresno announced it had hired Brian Spindor, a civil engineer with experience in Washington state and Hawaii, as Assistant Director of Public Utilities, in charge of water and wastewater facilities.

“Brian has proven management and leadership skills with plenty of experience leading diverse staffs under challenging conditions,” said City Manager Bruce Rudd. “He’s a great addition to our team and will bring a strong sense of accountability and communication to our water operations.”


Tagged categories: Asia Pacific; Coating Materials; Corrosion; EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa); Galvanized steel; Latin America; Lead; North America; Pipes; potable water

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