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Water Res. 2009 Oct;43(18):4729-39. doi: 10.1016/j.watres.2009.07.035. Epub 2009 Aug 6.

Microbial community structures and in situ sulfate-reducing and sulfur-oxidizing activities in biofilms developed on mortar specimens in a corroded sewer system.

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Division of Field Engineering for Environment, Graduate School of Engineering, Hokkaido University, Sapporo, Japan.


Microbially induced concrete corrosion (MICC) caused by sulfuric acid attack in sewer systems has been a serious problem for a long time. A better understanding of microbial community structures of sulfate-reducing bacteria (SRB) and sulfur-oxidizing bacteria (SOB) and their in situ activities is essential for the efficient control of MICC. In this study, the microbial community structures and the in situ hydrogen sulfide production and consumption rates within biofilms and corroded materials developed on mortar specimens placed in a corroded manhole was investigated by culture-independent 16S rRNA gene-based molecular techniques and microsensors for hydrogen sulfide, oxygen, pH and the oxidation-reduction potential. The dark-gray gel-like biofilm was developed in the bottom (from the bottom to 4 cm) and the middle (4-20 cm from the bottom of the manhole) parts of the mortar specimens. White filamentous biofilms covered the gel-like biofilm in the middle part. The mortar specimens placed in the upper part (30 cm above the bottom of the manhole) were corroded. The 16S rRNA gene-cloning analysis revealed that one clone retrieved from the bottom biofilm sample was related to an SRB, 12 clones and 6 clones retrieved from the middle biofilm and the corroded material samples, respectively, were related to SOB. In situ hybridization results showed that the SRB were detected throughout the bottom biofilm and filamentous SOB cells were mainly detected in the upper oxic layer of the middle biofilm. Microsensor measurements demonstrated that hydrogen sulfide was produced in and diffused out of the bottom biofilms. In contrast, in the middle biofilm the hydrogen sulfide produced in the deeper parts of the biofilm was oxidized in the upper filamentous biofilm. pH was around 3 in the corroded materials developed in the upper part of the mortar specimens. Therefore, it can be concluded that hydrogen sulfide provided from the bottom biofilms and the sludge settling tank was emitted to the sewer atmosphere, then oxidized to corrosive compounds in the upper and middle parts of the manhole, and only the upper part of the mortar specimens were corroded, because in the middle part of the manhole the generated corrosive compounds (e.g., sulfuric acid) was reduced in the deeper parts of the biofilm.

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