Microbiologically Induced Corrosion

by P. J. B. Scott, Biological Oceanographer and Principal; Cariad Consultants, North York, Ontario, Canada,
Michael Davies, Materials Engineer and Principal; Cariad Consultants, North York, Ontario, Cnada,

Serial Information: Civil Engineering—ASCE, 1992, Vol. 62, Issue 5, Pg. 58-59

Document Type: Feature article


Researchers investigating a building whose columns bled a colorless liquid found that the building was under attack by microorganisms. A community of bacteria had contaminated the fireproofing around some of the steel column sections and were symbiotically producing nutrients for each other by digesting it. The side effects of this bacterial brunch—a lower environmental pH and an acidic by-product—accelerated the breakdown of the insulation and were ultimately corroding the building's steel column sections. Investigating the extent of the problem and applying remedial measures were hampered by limited access and strict rules on the use of biocides. The case illustrates a phenomenon that often goes unrecognized because the results look like standard corrosion. The article talks about the interdisciplinary efforts of engineers, biologists, corrosion specialists and contractors to investigate and remediate the building and track down the source of the infection.

Subject Headings: Steel columns | Microbes | Corrosion | Bacteria | Building insulation | Remediation | Pollution | Fire resistance

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