November 25, 2021

Analysis of Microbial Communities as Indicators of Microbially Induced Corrosion Potential in Stainless Steel Piping


The 200 West Area Pump-and-Treat (200W P&T) facility is part of the final remedy decision for the 200 ZP-1 Operable Unit (OU) and is the interim remedial action for 200-UP-1 OU at the Hanford Site. The facility also treats water from other sources across the site, including 200-DV-1 OU perched water, groundwater from the 200-BP-5 OU, and leachate from the Environmental Restoration Disposal Facility. The facility originally operated a biological treatment process for nitrate that resulted in systemic biofouling and loss of injection well capacity, requiring frequent and costly well rehabilitation. Biofouling has also contributed to corrosion of welds and pitting of stainless-steel piping at the facility. The biological treatment for nitrate was suspended at the end of 2019 calendar year to eliminate negative impacts from biological treatments which improve facility operations and treatment of carbon tetrachloride. Evaluation of the 200W P&T facility’s response to operational improvements, specifically the suspension of the biological treatment, provides information on the potential for continued microbially induced corrosion (MIC). To this end, historical data sets (2015-2017) were compared with molecular biological analyses of 200W P&T water samples from 2018-2020 to quantify trends in total microbial biomass and specific microbial indicator species (iron, sulfate, nitrate, and manganese reducing bacteria) known to cause and enhance metal corrosion. Results showed unequivocal reductions (in excess of 90%) in all microbiological indicators measured following the suspension of the biological treatment. Although abundance measurements for all corrosive MIC populations initially declined after removal of the treatment system, nitrate-reducing bacteria (nirK) and sulfate-reducing bacteria remain highly abundant in the system, an order of magnitude higher than the number of cells present prior to the removal of the biological treatment system [5.14e8 (1.4) cells/L, vs. 1.14e7 (0.07) cells/L, reported as average (±SD) for n=3]. In addition, there was an unexpected inflection point in 2019 where all microbial indicators increased unexpectedly in abundance in 2020 by as much as two orders of magnitude compared to 2019 samples. Given the limited number of water samples available for this analysis, the cause of the increase in microbial indicators post-biological treatment has not yet been determined. Systematic sampling of the facility for continued monitoring is recommended so that the responses of MIC populations can be evaluated to ensure that further corrosion is avoided, allowing the 200W P&T facility to operate safely and efficiently at design capacity.

Published: November 25, 2021


Bagwell C.E., V.A. Garayburu-Caruso, and D.L. Saunders. 2021. Analysis of Microbial Communities as Indicators of Microbially Induced Corrosion Potential in Stainless Steel Piping Richland, WA: Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

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