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Reducing sewer corrosion through integrated urban water management

Science  15 Aug 2014:
Vol. 345, Issue 6198, pp. 812-814
DOI: 10.1126/science.1251418

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Sourcing corrosive sewer sulfides

Sewer systems are corroding at an alarming rate, costing governments billions of dollars to replace. Differences among water treatment systems make it difficult to track down the source of corrosive sulfide responsible for this damage. Pikaar et al. performed an extensive industry survey and sampling campaign across Australia (see the Perspective by Rauch and Kleidorfer). Aluminum sulfate added as a coagulant during drinking water treatment was the primary culprit in corroding sewer systems. Modifying this common treatment strategy to include sulfate-free coagulants could dramatically reduce sewer corrosion across the globe.

Science, this issue p. 812; see also p. 734

Abstract

Sewer systems are among the most critical infrastructure assets for modern urban societies and provide essential human health protection. Sulfide-induced concrete sewer corrosion costs billions of dollars annually and has been identified as a main cause of global sewer deterioration. We performed a 2-year sampling campaign in South East Queensland (Australia), an extensive industry survey across Australia, and a comprehensive model-based scenario analysis of the various sources of sulfide. Aluminum sulfate addition during drinking water production contributes substantially to the sulfate load in sewage and indirectly serves as the primary source of sulfide. This unintended consequence of urban water management structures could be avoided by switching to sulfate-free coagulants, with no or only marginal additional expenses compared with the large potential savings in sewer corrosion costs.

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