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Virginia Tech experts in search of answers for SL copper pipe leaks

Monday, October 17, 2005

Researchers from Virginia Tech will be doing an on-site analysis of the Storm Lake Water Treatment process and distribution system at the end of October. For the past six months, the City of Storm Lake and Veolia Water have been working with research staff at Virginia Tech to study an epidemic of pinhole leaks in copper pipes in Storm Lake.

Now staff from Virginal Tech will be coming to Storm Lake to step up the research. They will set up testing equipment in an effort to find a resolution to the pin hole leak issue.

While in Storm Lake, researchers will concentrate on on-site sampling and assessment of the water treatment process through to the water consumers, and in setting up experimental reactors. Two researchers from Virginia Tech will be in Storm Lake for seven to ten days conducting the assessment.

The first part of their on-site research will take approximately two days and will include visual observations, water quality measurements, micro biological testing, and taking representative samples from active systems for further study in their labs in Virginia. In order to conduct this research the City is looking for community members who would be willing to allow the research staff into their homes to conduct the testing. Potential sites where NO copper pipe pin hole leaks have occurred are desired as well as sites where copper pipes have experienced pin hole leaks. Community members who would be willing to participate in the testing are encouraged to call City Administration at 712-732-8002. The pipes should be easily accessible and in any case where the researchers would want to take a sample of pipe for further testing a qualified plumber would assist the team and repair the area where the sample was removed. They will also spend time testing water throughout the distribution system.

The second phase of their visit will involve the installation of four experimental reactors. These reactors specifically created for testing copper pipe corrosion consist of a 55 gallon barrel with copper pipe and wire that helps to speed up the corrosion process for the study. These experimental reactors will be setup by the staff from Virginal Tech and then maintained over the next few months by Veolia Water and City of Storm Lake staff.

The involvement with Virginia Tech is bringing leading edge technology to the Storm Lake water system. Cost for the study is being underwritten in part by a grant from the American Water Works Foundation. In addition the City of Storm Lake will be providing $15,000 of funding for the on-site portion of the study.

Work by Virginia Tech in this field has been instrumental in solving similar type problems in the Washington D.C. area and they are currently involved in ongoing studies and analysis projects in several other community water systems, with similar issues, in the United States.

The researchers at Virginia Tech indicate that results from the testing and on-site analysis could be done in a few months; however, the results within the homes could take longer depending on in home plumbing systems.

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