Seasonal lead release to drinking water and the effect of aluminum

17 February 2022, Version 4
This content is a preprint and has not undergone peer review at the time of posting.


Monitoring lead in drinking water is important for public health, but seasonality in lead concentrations can bias monitoring programs if it is not understood and accounted for. Here, we describe an apparent seasonal pattern in lead release to orthophosphate-treated drinking water, identified through point-of-use sampling at sites in Halifax, Canada, with various sources of lead. Using a generalized additive model, we extracted the seasonally-varying components of time series representing a suite of water quality parameters and we identified aluminum as a correlate of lead. To investigate aluminum’s role in lead release, we modeled the effect of variscite (AlPO4 · 2H2O) precipitation on lead solubility, and we evaluated the effects of aluminum, temperature, and orthophosphate concentration on lead release from new lead coupons. At environmentally relevant aluminum and orthophosphate concentrations, variscite precipitation increased predicted lead solubility by decreasing available orthophosphate. Increasing the aluminum concentration from 20–500 µg L-1 increased lead release from coupons by 41% and modified the effect of orthophosphate, rendering it less effective. We attributed this to a decrease in the concentration of soluble (<0.45 µm) phosphorus with increasing aluminum and an accompanying increase in particulate lead and phosphorus (>0.45 µm).


generalized additive model


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