Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2019

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

First Advisor

Julie A. Korak

Second Advisor

Fernando Rosario-Ortiz

Third Advisor

Mark T. Hernandez


In January of 2018, an NSF RAPID project was launched to analyze the water quality in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria. More than 40 local drinking water taps were sampled over three sampling campaigns. This reconnaissance systematically included a collection of samples from publicly owned treatment systems (PRASA), privately owned systems operated by communities (non-PRASA), and unmonitored surface spring sources. The first sampling campaign was targeted towards gaining a holistic perspective of the water quality (e.g., bulk water quality parameters, nutrients, major ions, pathogens, DNA, disinfection byproducts (DBPs), and metals concentrations). However, elevated water lead levels in those initial results steered the following sampling events towards a more systematic lead sampling protocol, guided by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Lead and Copper Rule (LCR) compliance procedure and alternative forensic lead sampling strategies.

The results from the 2nd and 3rd sampling campaigns showed conflicting potable WLLs. Therefore, these data exemplify the challenges of rapid reconnaissance sampling when trying to implement a universal sampling approach for many different parameters. Furthermore, the variability of lead concentrations and the factors that affect corrosion contribute to this difficulty. This study compares aggressive water quality corrosion characteristics to the observed water quality in Puerto Rico distribution systems and presents the forensic fingerprints that may allow for the identification of lead sources.

Overall, the results of this study illustrate the difficulty in characterizing the magnitude of corrosion issues in distribution systems. Many of systems sampled show that the water quality in Puerto Rico has aggressive water characteristics that can potentially produce elevated lead concentrations in potable water distribution systems, but sampling methods have a large impact on results and interpretation.