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Corrosion of Copper Water Pipe

A section of corroded copper water pipe was submitted for examination and failure analysis. An overall view of the subject copper water pipe is shown below in Photograph A.

Overview of corroded copper water pipe.
Photograph A Corroded copper water pipe.

The subject pipe was examined visually and using the stereomicroscope. No visual evidence of pipe perforation was observed. External corrosion and roughening of the outside pipe surface was clearly evident. A close-up view of the corroded surface of the subject copper water pipe is shown below in Photograph B.

Close-up of corroded copper water pipe.
Photograph B corrosion/pitting of external surface of copper pipe.

The subject copper pipe section was pressure tested with a soap bubble solution and by water submersion while pressurized and still no perforations of the copper pipe wall could be detected. The soap bubble solution and submersion tests are shown in Photographs C and D, respectively.

Copper water pipe pressure test.
Photograph C Copper water pipe being pressure tested with a soap bubble test.
Copper water pipe submersion test.
Photograph D Copper water pipe being pressure tested with a submersion test.

No pipe wall perforation was noted visually or with the stereomicroscope. Soap bubble and submersion pressure testing also failed to reveal any pipe wall perforations. The highly pitted, striated external surface is characteristic of corrosion resulting from electrical activity. This form of corrosion is commonly referred to as stray current corrosion. The source of this electrical activity was unknown and undetermined.

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J.E.I. Metallurgical, Inc.

5514 Harbor Town
Dallas, Texas 75287

Phone: (972) 934-0493
Fax: (469) 737-3938
Email: r.c.jerner@metallurgist.com

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