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Abstract for September 26, 2018 Webinar


Title:  Removal of Organic Contaminants from Polyethylene Drink Water Pipes by Flushing

Organic contaminants (such as petroleum products, industrial solvents, and some pesticides) are capable of permeating polymeric materials used in drinking water infrastructure. Following a contamination incident, utilities typically advise customers to decontaminate their pipes by flushing clean water for up to thirty minutes. While the uptake and release of contaminants by polyethylene tubing has been well studied in the context of permeation by long-term contact with contaminated soil, little work has been done regarding contamination by short-term contact with contaminated water, making it difficult to predict the effectiveness of decontamination by flushing. To address this challenge, we employ a numerical solution to the diffusion equation to predict flushing decontamination times for toluene in polyethylene tubing. A single compartment diffusion cell was used to calibrate and validate the diffusion model. Our results suggest that, depending on contaminant properties, contaminant concentration, and duration of the contamination event, adequate removal of organic contaminants from polyethylene tubing may require considerably longer flushing times than are typically recommended.


LEVI M. HAUPERT, PhD, is an ORISE fellow working with the US Environmental Protection Agency’s National Homeland Security Research Center. His current research efforts focus on remediation of contaminated plastic drinking water pipes. He received his doctorate in chemistry in 2012 from Purdue University where he used quantum computational software and ultrafast optics to investigate the behavior of biopolymers and excited state complexes.

See the webinar main page for further details.