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Re: Copper and Lead in the Sewers

For both these pollutants, you will probably need to look beyond industry to
find the sources.  The City of Palo Alto completed a detailed source
identification study for copper in wastewater, which should be available on the
internet at www.city.palo-alto.ca.us/cleanbay/publications.html (if it is not
available as a separate document, you can find a summary in the pollutant
source identification section of the Clean Bay Plan; you can call Brooke
Safford at 650-329-2495 for a hard copy).  That study (the product of 6 years
of my work in Palo Alto) showed that the major source was corrosion of copper
piping--this is a common finding that has been mirrored by several other
medium-sized cities in California and a small town in Connecticut.  Other
common sources include copper-based root control products (we got them banned
in the San Francisco Bay area and therefore they are omitted from the Palo Alto
copper analysis), metal finishers and printed circuit board manufacturers,
water-based cooling systems (chemical additives and corrosion), circulating hot
water systems at hospitals, hotels, laboratories, and office buildings, and
addition of copper sulfate to the water supply to control algae (this does not
occur in the Palo Alto water supply).  If its a combined sewer/storm drain
system, you'll also be interested to know that the major source of copper in
urban runoff is releases from vehicle brake pad wear (there's an international
Brake Pad Partnership to work on this source, which cannot be controlled
effectively by local action).

I have not seen a similar study for lead.  In the last 10 years, Palo Alto's
effluent wastewater levels dropped by about 95%.  We believed this drop was due
primarily to the drop in environmental lead levels (from removal of lead in
paint, gasoline, and other products), to slightly improved treatment plant
operation, to somewhat reduced discharges from vehicle service facilties and
car washes (we never thought they were a major source), and to better controls
on lead in the water supply (take a look at that source, as some drinking water
systems have lead lines in them and all are required to comply with the "Lead
and Copper Rule").  The one lead source our team worked diligently to prevent
was an optical glass grinder, who was discharging polishing waste from
lead-containing glass--we couldn't get him off the lead glass, but did get him
to collect and recycle the lead-containing slurry from polishing.

Good luck.

Kelly Moran
TDC Environmental

Robert Pojasek wrote:

> Has anyone done a survey of industries that may be present in a smaller
> town (e.g., automobile repair) that may be responsible for elevating levels
> of copper and lead in a small sewage treatment plant discharge?  I know
> that mercury, molybdenum, cadmium, silver and certain organics have been
> tracked to specific source.  Is there a publication on sources for copper
> and lead?  Thank you.
> Bob
> Dr. Robert B. Pojasek
> Pojasek & Associates
> P.O. Box 1333
> E. Arlington, MA 02474-0071
> (781) 641-2422
> (617) 788-0288 (FAX)
> http://www.PollutionPrevention.com
> rpojasek@PollutionPrevention.com