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Corrosion Reviews

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In situ remediation of leaks in potable water supply systems

Min Tang
  • Corresponding author
  • Civil and Environmental Engineering Department, Virginia Tech, Durham Hall 418, Blacksburg, VA 24061, USA
  • Email:
/ Simoni Triantafyllidou
  • Civil and Environmental Engineering Department, Virginia Tech, Durham Hall 418, Blacksburg, VA 24061, USA
/ Marc Edwards
  • Civil and Environmental Engineering Department, Virginia Tech, Durham Hall 418, Blacksburg, VA 24061, USA
Published Online: 2013-11-22 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/corrrev-2013-0026


Water leaks in distribution system mains and premise plumbing systems have very high costs and public health implications. The possible in situ remediation of leaks while a pipeline is in service could reduce leaking at costs orders of magnitude lower than conventional pipe repair, rehabilitation, or replacement. Experiences of Roman engineers and recent field observations suggest that such processes can occur naturally or may even be engineered to ameliorate leaks, including those caused by metallic corrosion. Three mechanisms of in situ leak remediation (i.e., metallic corrosion, physical clogging, and precipitation) are described in this paper, in an effort to understand the role of physical factors (e.g., temperature, pressure, and leak size) and water chemistry (e.g., pH, alkalinity, corrosion inhibitors, dissolved oxygen, and turbidity) in controlling in situ remediation for both inert (plastic and aged concrete) and chemically reactive (new concrete, copper, and iron) pipe materials. Although there are possible limitations and uncertainties with the phenomenon, including the fraction of pipeline leaks to which it might apply and the durability/longevity of remediation, such approaches may prove useful in economically sustaining some aging drinking water infrastructure assets and reducing future failure rates.

Keywords: in situ remediation; leaks; mechanisms; premise plumbing; water mains


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About the article

Min Tang

Min Tang is currently a PhD candidate in the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department at Virginia Tech. She received her Bachelor’s degree from Sichuan University and Master’s degree from Virginia Tech in Environmental Engineering in 2011 and 2013, respectively. Her research interests include aquatic water chemistry, in situ remediation in water supply systems, corrosion, and water/wastewater treatment.

Simoni Triantafyllidou

Simoni Triantafyllidou was a postdoctoral researcher at Virginia Tech when this work was undertaken. Dr. Triantafyllidou earned her MS and PhD degrees in Environmental Engineering at Virginia Tech, and her research interests include aquatic chemistry, corrosion science, drinking water quality/treatment, sustainable drinking water infrastructure, and public health. She has authored and coauthored numerous publications on these topics. Dr. Triantafyllidou is the recipient of First Place MS Thesis Awards by the Association of Environmental Engineering and Science Professors (AEESP) and AWWA, an Outstanding PhD Dissertation Award by AEESP, a Larson Research Aquatic Support Scholarship by AWWA, and a Best Paper Award in the journal Environmental Science and Technology.

Marc Edwards

Marc Edwards received his Bachelor’s degree in Bio-Physics from SUNY Buffalo and an MS/PhD degree in Environmental Engineering from the University of Washington. His MS thesis and PhD dissertation won national awards from the AWWA, the Association of Environmental Engineering and Science Professors, and the Water Environment Federation. In 2004, Time Magazine dubbed Dr. Edwards “The Plumbing Professor” and listed him among the four most important “Innovators” in water from around the world. The White House awarded him a Presidential Faculty Fellowship in 1996. In 1994, 1995, 2005, and 2011, Edwards received Outstanding Paper Awards in the Journal of American Waterworks Association and received the H.P. Eddy Medal in 1990 for best research publication by the Water Pollution Control Federation (currently Water Environment Federation). He was later awarded the Walter Huber Research Prize from the ASCE (2003), State of Virginia Outstanding Faculty Award (2006), a MacArthur Fellowship (2008–2012), the Praxis Award in Professional Ethics from Villanova University (2010), and the IEEE Barus Award for Defending the Public Interest (2012). His paper on lead poisoning of children in Washington, D.C., due to elevated lead in drinking water, was judged the outstanding science paper in Environmental Science and Technology in 2010. Since 1995, undergraduate and graduate students advised by Edwards have won 23 nationally recognized awards for their research work on corrosion and water treatment. Edwards is currently the Charles Lunsford Professor of Civil Engineering at Virginia Tech, where he teaches courses in environmental engineering ethics and applied aquatic chemistry.

Corresponding author: Min Tang, Civil and Environmental Engineering Department, Virginia Tech, Durham Hall 418, Blacksburg, VA 24061, USA, e-mail:

Received: 2013-06-04

Accepted: 2013-09-20

Published Online: 2013-11-22

Published in Print: 2013-12-01

Citation Information: Corrosion Reviews, ISSN (Online) 2191-0316, ISSN (Print) 0334-6005, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/corrrev-2013-0026. Export Citation

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