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J Appl Microbiol. 2004;97(3):590-7.

Microbiological influences in 'blue water' copper corrosion.

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CSIRO Manufacturing and Infrastructure Technology, Clayton South, Victoria, Australia.



To investigate the influence of micro-organisms associated with copper corrosion on 'blue water' corrosion in drinking water.


Laboratory rigs comprising of polycarbonate containers attached to annealed copper plumbing tubes were filled with Melbourne drinking water and sterilized by autoclaving. The copper tubes were inoculated with sterile or nonsterile extracts obtained from corroding copper and allowed to stand for 7 days. The extracts were drained and the tubes flushed and filled with sterile water from the rig. The water within the tubes was removed weekly for analysis and the tubes were refilled with freshly aerated water. The tube water sampled was analysed for pH, total copper and the presence of micro-organisms. Sterile rigs and rigs containing nonsterile water, both without tube inoculums, were used as controls. The results demonstrated that tubes inoculated with nonsterile corrosion extracts showed statistically higher copper release compared with the other rigs. Copper release as blue water was only observed after a lag period of 9 weeks. The internal surfaces of tubes releasing copper showed significant amounts of corrosion products and the presence of biofilm. Bacteria isolated from the corroding tubes included Acidovorax spp. and Sphingomonas sp.


The results demonstrate a microbial role in blue water, as corrosion was induced in new copper tubes by exposure to nonsterile copper corrosion products.


The potential for micro-organisms present in corrosion products to initiate blue water corrosion presents significant implications for the management of corrosion in distribution systems.

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