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Lead contamination remains a persistent global environmental problem, the hazards of which are often difficult to identify without specific and targeted research. This study examines environmental contamination arising from the widespread use of lead solder in the joints of large gravity water supply pipelines. Contamination of adjacent grazing lands and subsequent poisoning of domestic livestock are evaluated. In particular, the study demonstrates that replacement of lead joints along an above ground 70 km water supply pipeline in central New South Wales (NSW), Australia, has caused soil lead contamination of up to 20,600 mg/kg. Contamination either side of the pipeline corridor extends to ∼10 m before surface soil lead values correspond more closely to natural background concentrations of 26 mg/kg. The estimated total volume of contaminated soil requiring remediation is 21,000 m3. Contamination is linked to toxicity and mortality in several farm animals and to elevated contamination of grass fodder (up to 50 mg/kg of lead) close to the pipeline. Other similar large-scale above ground reticulation systems in the Sydney (NSW) Metropolitan region and adjacent to the 560 km long Kalgoorlie (Western Australia) Golden Pipeline are shown to present similar environmental hazards. The use of lead solder joints in other international large scale reticulation networks are also identified, demonstrating that this specific anthropogenic hazard is likely to be a more global problem, which has not has been detailed in the research literature to any significant extent.
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