Decontaminating chemically contaminated residential premise plumbing systems by flushing†
Recent large-scale drinking water chemical contamination incidents in Canada and the U.S. have affected more than 1 000 000 people and involved disparate premise plumbing decontamination approaches. In this study, past premise plumbing decontamination approaches were reviewed and a mass balance water heater model was developed and tested. Organic contaminants were the sole focus of this work. Thirty-nine contamination incidents were identified and contaminants had a wide range of physiochemical properties [i.e., log Kow, water solubility, vapor pressure]. Minimal data was available pertaining to flushing protocol design and effectiveness. Results showed that premise plumbing design, operational conditions, contaminants present and their properties, as well as building inhabitant safety have not been fully considered in flushing protocol design. Results indicated that flushing could decontaminate some, but not all plumbing systems. Several modeling scenarios showed contaminant levels exceeded drinking water health limits after flushing following recent large-scale water contamination incidents. Water saving fixtures and devices, water heater size, and flow rate affected contaminant removal efficiency. Modeling did not consider service lines or piping. This study provides a first step in the development of science based premise plumbing flushing protocols for organic contaminants.