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Detection of Lead Based Water Pipelines Using Stress Waves Aided Electrodiagnostic Probes

Project Team

Ivan Bartoli, PhD, Associate Professor, Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering Department, Drexel University

Kurt Sjoblom, PhD, Owner, Seaflower Consulting Services

Charles Haas, PhD, LD, Betz Professor of Environmental Engineering, Environmental Engineering Program Head, Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering Department, Drexel University


There is a pressing need to rapidly and cost-effectively identify the service line material supplying water to homes across and outside the US. A recent investigation has concluded that 15-22 million Americans obtain their water through lead pipes. Non-destructive techniques have been developed and are commonly used to locate buried pipes. However, no techniques to date can effectively differentiate underground lead-based water lines from lines containing other materials. This proposal focuses on the development and field testing of a novel sensing system to identify lead-based water pipes using stress acoustic waves that exploit the properties of sound waves (speed, attenuation, etc.) in pipelines of different materials, which was developed by Drs. Bartoli, Sjoblom, and Haas. Recently, the investigators reengaged with a local water utility, American Water, to validate the proposed technology in the field at multiple locations. With the Coulter-Drexel Partnership, the proposers intend to carefully validate the proposed approach in the field and develop a prototype that could be licensed to major water utilities such as American Water. Consulting firms in the water sector could also be possible licenses of the technology.