Recently the stellar utility in Memphis, Memphis Light Gas And Water decided to invest $5 million in replacing aged lead pipes from its water distribution network. The beautiful and impressive part of this is that Memphis doesn’t have a problem with unsafe lead levels in drinking water. The new pipes are simply a pro-active forward thinking move to improve the distribution network and give assurance to those currently drinking through these pipes that their safety is being looked after.
Be clear however, with properly treated tap water there will be no discernible difference in the lead levels in water sampled from lead, copper or plastic pipes. The reason for this is two-fold. Proper treatment of tap water includes a food-grade phosphate chemical that coats the inside of pipes and keeps the metal from corroding into the drinking water. Secondly, calcium scale builds up over the years and also can form a protective lining inside the pipes that also keeps the water from touching the inside of the pipes.
For me, the real exciting part of this story is that Water.Org maintains that every $1 invested in water infrastructure results in a spin-off of $4 in new economic development. Accordingly, Memphis is about to get a $20 million bump in its economy. Pretty cool!