Professor Loretta Li to investigate corrosion in Whistler water distribution system

Thursday, May 19, 2016 | By Lindsay Cashin

Back row, L-R: Siobhan Robinson (Kerr Wood Leidal Associates Ltd.), Perry Adebar (UBC Civil Engineering). Front row, L-R: Michael Day (Resort Minicipality of Whistler), Loretta Li (UBC Civil Engineering), Chris Johnston (Kerr Wood Leidal Associates Ltd.)

In 2014, the Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMoW) saw a risk for internal corrosion in its water distribution system. Now, the RMoW is partnering with Civil Engineering professor Loretta Li and Kerr Wood Leidal Associates Ltd. (KWL) to take a closer look at this corrosion, and what they find will have the potential to benefit municipalities across the country.

Signs of internal corrosion, such as high water loss, green staining, and fitting failures had been observed in the RMoW. The Municipality also recognized that many of its fifteen water sources have low pH and alkalinity levels, another risk factor for corrosion. The RMoW initially hired Kerr Wood Leidal Associates Ltd. (KWL) to look at the internal corrosion risk, and evaluate potential mitigation strategies. KWL eventually recommended a pilot for a chemical injection system, in an isolated area of Whistler’s water network, to see if water corrosivity could be reduced that way. However, baseline corrosion measurements conducted before the pilot only raised more questions.

Seeing an opportunity to advance the field of corrosion science while improving the understanding of corrosion in the RMoW’s distribution system, RMoW and KWL approached Professor Loretta Li, of UBC’s Civil Engineering Department, about working together to deepen their investigation. Now, after months of planning (and with financial support from MITACS and NSERC), they are set to kick off a corrosion research project. The findings are expected to enhance the understanding of how internal corrosion impacts municipal water systems, and to improve existing corrosion models. Ultimately, this could help reduce pipe and fitting failures and increase the lifespan of water distribution infrastructure in municipalities across Canada.