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Removal of Soft Deposits From the Distribution System

Removal of Soft Deposits From the Distribution System

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Water Research 38 (2004) 601–610
Removal of soft deposits from the distribution systemimproves the drinking water quality
Markku J. Lehtola
*, Tarja K. Nissinen
, Ilkka T. Miettinen
,Pertti J. Martikainen
, Terttu Vartiainen
Laboratory of Environmental Microbiology, National Public Health Institute, P.O. Box 95, Kuopio 70701, Finland 
Laboratory of Chemistry, National Public Health Institute, P.O. Box 95, Kuopio 70701, Finland 
Department of Environmental Sciences, Bioteknia 2, University of Kuopio, P.O. Box 1627, Kuopio 70211, Finland 
Received 20 September 2002; received in revised form 23 October 2003; accepted 30 October 2003
Deterioration in drinking water quality in distribution networks represents a problem in drinking water distribution.These can be an increase in microbial numbers, an elevated concentration of iron or increased turbidity, all of whichaffect taste, odor and color in the drinking water. We studied if pipe cleaning would improve the drinking water qualityin pipelines. Cleaning was arranged by flushing the pipes with compressed air and water. The numbers of bacteria andthe concentrations of iron and turbidity in drinking water were highest at 9 p.m., when the water consumption washighest. Soft deposits inside the pipeline were occasionally released to bulk water, increasing the concentrations of iron,bacteria, microbially available organic carbon and phosphorus in drinking water. The cleaning of the pipeline decreasedthe diurnal variation in drinking water quality. With respect to iron, only short-term positive effects were obtained.However, removing of the nutrient-rich soft deposits did decrease the microbial growth in the distribution systemduring summer when there were favorable warm temperatures for microbial growth. No Norwalk-like viruses orcoliform bacteria were detected in the soft deposits, in contrast to the high numbers of heterotrophic bacteria.
2003 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Drinking water; Distribution system; Bacteria; Nutrient; Iron; Pipe cleaning; Biofilm
1. Introduction
The quality of drinking water leaving from water-works usually meets the standards for chemical andmicrobiological quality. However, there are oftenmicrobiological and chemical changes which deterioratethe water quality within the distribution networks. Ironpipes are commonly used in drinking water distributionsystems. Iron corrosion products may cause taste andcolor in the drinking water and may can also induce achemical decay of the residual chlorine[1,2].In a drinking water distribution system, the number of microbes in water generally increases[3]. Detachment of bacteria from biofilms has accounted for most of theplanktonic cells present in drinking water[4]. Softdeposits and biofilms in drinking water pipelines havebeen found to consist mostly of bacteria, includingpathogenic microbes, which can also be present indrinking water distribution networks[3,5,6].Finnish waterworks generally clean the pipelines,because of taste, odor and color problems. In old iron
AOC, Assimilable organic carbon; AOC
,Assimilable organic carbon analyzed with addition of inorganicnutrients; CFU/ml, Colony forming units per milliliter; FTU,Formazine turbidity unit; HPC, Heterotrophic plate counts;MAP, Microbially available phosphorus; NLV, Norwalk-likevirus; NOX,
NOX bacteria strain; P17,
Pseudomonas fluorescens
P17 bacteria strain; TOC, Total organic carbon*Corresponding author. Tel.: +358-17-201371; fax: +358-17-201155.
E-mail address:
markku.lehtola@ktl.fi (M.J. Lehtola).0043-1354/$-see front matter
2003 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.doi:10.1016/j.watres.2003.10.054
pipes the content of iron in drinking water can exceedthe indicator parameter value of 200
g/l laid down inthe council directive 98/83/EC adopted by the council of the European Union[7]. When there are cases of waterborne disease outbreaks in Finland, one of therecommended procedures, in addition to chlorination, isflushing or pipeline internal gauging (pigging) of thecontaminated parts of the distribution networks[8].However, cleaning of the pipes is expensive and usuallyonly some problematic parts of the distribution networkare cleaned, not the whole distribution network.Data from waterworks have revealed that there is ahigh diurnal variation in the consumption of drinkingwater. Here we have studied if there is also a diurnalvariation in the drinking water quality, and whether pipecleaning would improve the drinking water quality.Furthermore, the possible occurrence of coliformbacteria or Norwalk-like viruses (NLV) in the softdeposits was studied.
2. Materials and methods
 2.1. The waterworks and the distribution system
The studied waterworks purified drinking water fromlake water using chemical coagulation with ferric sulfateand rapid sand filtration. Water pH was adjusted byliming and water was disinfected with chlorine gasbefore distribution. One third of the water was treatedwith activated carbon. The waterworks distributeddrinking water for 25,000 individuals.The part of the distribution system that was studiedwas located at a distance of 6km from the waterworkswith a retention time of about 1 day. The total length of the distribution system was 171km. The pipeline wasbuilt in 1966 and had never been mechanically cleanedafter its construction. The pipes were made of cast iron(inner diameter 150mm). In the studied area, the waterwas consumed by private houses and ramifications inpipes were about equal, pipes were not dead ends. Watersamples were taken from fire hydrants which wereflushed for 3–5min before sampling. Samples were takenfrom a common sampling point representing thebeginning of both the cleaned pipeline and the referenceline (A inFig. 1) and from sampling points after thecleaned part of the pipeline (B inFig. 1) as well as fromthe end of the uncleaned reference pipeline (C inFig. 1).The length of both the cleaned and reference pipelineswas 850m. The pipeline cleaning was done by com-pressed air-water flushing, i.e. compressed air and waterpulses were passed through the pipeline. Compressed airand water were drawn into the pipeline through the firehydrants. The water flow during cleaning was turbulent,and the flow rate of water pulses inside the pipeline was3–12m/s. It took about 1h to clean the pipe.
 2.2. Sampling
Weekly water sampling was carried out for 3 weeksduring the same working day of the week (Tuesday– Wednesday). Samples for heterotrophic plate counts(HPC), iron and total number of bacteria were taken fivetimes and those for microbially available phosphorus(MAP) and assimilable organic carbon (AOC
)three times during each sampling day. Sampling timeswere chosen to represent the lowest and highest con-sumption periods. The first 3-week sampling period ended1 week before the pipeline cleaning (at April–May). Twodays after the cleaning (May), water samples were takenthree times every second day. The last 3-week samplingperiod was done 3 months after the cleaning (August).Soft deposit samples were collected during thecompressed air–water flushing. Samples were collectedat the beginning of the cleaning when the thickestdeposits were coming from the pipe.
 2.3. Glassware
Glassware was washed with phosphate-free detergent(Deconex; Borer Chemie AG, Zuchwil, Switzerland).After immersion in 2% HCl solution for 2h they wererinsed with deionized water (Millipore, Molsheim,France) and finally heated for 6h at 550
C. Thisprocedure was done to remove all phosphorus andcarbon residuals from the glassware.
 2.4. Organic carbon
Total organic carbon (TOC) was analyzed by a hightemperature combustion method with a Shimadzu 5000
Fig. 1. Layout of the cleaned part of the distribution system.Dashed line (from A to B) is cleaned pipeline and solid line(from A to C) is the reference pipeline.
M.J. Lehtola et al. / Water Research 38 (2004) 601–610
TOC analyser (Kyoto, Japan). Assimilable organiccarbon (AOC) was analyzed by a modification[9]of the Van der Kooij[10]method. The modificationincluded addition of inorganic nutrients to ensure thatonly the AOC content restricted microbial growth inphosphorus limited waters, i.e. AOC was measured asAOC
[9]. Growth of 
Pseudomonas fluorescens
wascalculated to correspond to acetate equivalents and
NOX to oxalate equivalents.
 2.5. Phosphorus
Total phosphorus (total P) was analyzed by theascorbic acid method according to the Finnish standards(SFS, 3026)[11].Absorbance was measured spectro- photometrically (Shimadzu UV-1601, Australia) at880nm wavelength using a 5cm light path. Microbiallyavailable phosphorus (MAP) was analyzed by abioassay where the maximum growth of 
P. fluorescens
P17 (ATCC 49642) in sterilized water samples wasrelated to the phosphorus concentration[12].Inorganic salts (except phosphorus) and sodium acetate wereadded to the water to ensure that the growth of testbacteria was limited solely by phosphorus. The max-imum microbial cell production (CFU/ml) was con-verted to the phosphorus concentration using theempirical yield factor of 3.73
g PO
 –P[12].Turbidity was analyzed with a Hach Ratio Turbidi-meter, Model 18900, temporal variation was analyzed inthe sampling point B. The iron concentration wasanalyzed spectrophotometrically with Swan AnalyticalInstruments (AG CH-8616 Riedikon/Uster) Chematest20 spectrophotometer. Oxycon Fe reagent (Spectro-quant 14761 Merck, Dramstad) was used to determinedissolved iron as described in the manual. The contentof free chlorine was analyzed with Palintest Micro 1000chlorometer (UK), the test being based on the DPDmethod. DPD No.1 test tablets (Palintest, UK) wereused in the test.
 2.6. Microbial numbers
The total number of bacteria in drinking water wasanalyzed by an acridine orange direct counting methodbased on the method of Hobbie et al.[13]. Bacteria werecounted with an Olympus BH-2 epifluorescence micro-scope (Olympus Optical co., Tokyo, Japan) using aneyepiece micrometer (Graticules Ltd., Tonbridge, UK).Heterotrophic bacteria (HPC) were analyzed by aspread plating method on R2A-agar (Difco)[14].R2A-agar plates were incubated for 7 days at 22
Cbefore colony counting. Total coliforms in drinkingwater were analyzed according to the Finnish standard[15]by a membrane filtration method using LesEndoagar (Difco). Water samples of 100ml were filteredthrough Millipore HA membrane filter with a pore sizeof 0.45
m (Millipore Co., Bedford, USA). The plateswere incubated 24h at 37
C before colony counting.Soft deposit samples collected during the pipecleaning were analyzed for total coliforms and Nor-walk-like viruses. For total coliforms, 2ml of the depositwas filtered on the membrane and analyzed as watersamples. For viral analysis, the RNA was extracted fromthe deposits and the presence of NLVs was detected byRT-PCR and hybridization as described for stoolsamples in Maunula et al.[16].
 2.7. Statistical analyses
Pearson correlation coefficients were calculated withSPSS version of 10.1.3 (SPSS Inc.) and Excel 97(Microsoft) programs. Statistical differences were testedwith one-way analysis of variance and Tukey’s multiplecomparison test (significance level
05) and inde-pendent samples
-test, analyses were done by SPSS forWindows version 10.1.3 program (SPSS Inc.).
3. Results
The quality of drinking water leaving the waterworksis presented inTable 1. The temperature of the rawwater increased in the summer, which affected the waterquality, demanding an increase in the required chlorinedose (Table 1).There was a diurnal variation in the consumption of the drinking water in the studied network.Fig. 2showsan example of the water flow during 1 day. The variationin diurnal consumption was also similar on the otherdays. Drinking water consumption was highest at 9p.m.and lowest at 4a.m. The maximum water flow in thestudied area was approximately 28.7m
/h and minimum14.6m
/h. Five daily water samples were taken, repre-senting different consumption periods (Fig. 2). Thesampling times were at 4a.m., 7 a.m., 1p.m., 6p.m. and9p.m. (Fig 2). AOC and MAP were analyzed from thesamples taken at 1p.m., 9p.m. and 4a.m.No coliform bacteria or Norwalk-like viruses werefound from the soft deposits collected during the pipecleaning. Coliform bacteria (not
Esherichia coli 
) wereonly recovered once from the drinking water samples.This positive sample was taken three months after thepipe cleaning from the reference pipeline. The averagenumber of heterotrophic bacteria in soft deposits was217,100
19,400CFU/ml (
3.1. Water quality in pipeline before cleaning
Water consumption rate affected the water quality inthe distribution network. The concentration of iron andturbidity of drinking water was highest at 9p.m. (A1, B1and C1 inFig. 3, B1 inFig. 4). The differences in iron
M.J. Lehtola et al. / Water Research 38 (2004) 601–610

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