Minimizing biofilm in presence of iron oxides and humic substances


Based upon circumstantial evidence linking elevated coliform bacteria counts in drinking water distribution systems with unlined cast iron pipe, it was hypothesized that adsorption of humic substances by iron oxide containing corrosion products (CPs) can stimulate and/or support biofilm development. Using porous media consisting of iron-oxide-coated glass beads (IOCBs) or actual iron Cps, experiments were performed to evaluate the effectiveness of different corrosion control and disinfection treatments in reducing biofilm when humic substances were the carbon source. Free chlorine was the most effective treatment in minimizing biofilm. Addition of phosphate alone did not significantly reduce biofilm using the CPs, but there was weak evidence it did using the IOCBs. The combination of free chlorine and phosphate was more effective at minimizing biofilm than free chlorine alone when CPs were the media. The presence of humic substances was a major factor when considering biofilm minimization based on results of experiments using both types of iron oxide media. The combination of humic substances and CPs led to an increase in biofilm biomass when free chlorine was not present, similar to conditions that could occur at distribution system dead-ends. Treatment to raise the pH to 9 did not reduce biofilm in experiments using both media, and actually increased biofilm in the experiment using CPs under the conditions tested.




Butterfield, Phillip W, Anne K Camper, Joel A Biederman, and Alex M Bargmeyer. “Minimizing Biofilm in the Presence of Iron Oxides and Humic Substances.” Water Research 36, no. 15 (September 2002): 3898–3910. doi:10.1016/s0043-1354(02)00088-x.
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