Reducing sewer corrosion: Water additive on the nose with concrete sewers

August 15, 2014
Water additive on the nose with concrete sewers
The collapse of corroded concrete sewer pipes can cause major infrastructure damage, such as this sinkhole created in San Francisco. Credit: AP via AAP/George Nikitin

A team of University of Queensland researchers has found a way to save water providers hundreds of millions of dollars a year by reducing sewer corrosion.

Team leader and Deputy Director of UQ's Advanced Water Management Centre (AWMC) Professor Zhiguo Yuan said sewer systems were recognised as one of the most critical infrastructure assets for urban societies.

"Maintenance costs for these concrete sewers run into the billions of dollars a year across the world,'' Professor Yuan said.

In a paper published in the leading international journal Science, the research team shows that a common coagulant added in the drinking water treatment, aluminium sulfate, can be a key contributor to the sulfate levels in sewage.

"This, in turn, is the primary source of hydrogen sulfide, which creates rapid concrete degradation and is the main cause of global sewer corrosion," he said.

"This could be avoided by switching to sulfate-free coagulants at little or no extra cost compared with the large potential savings in sewer maintenance and corrosion costs.

"To get to this point, we performed a two-year sampling campaign in South East Queensland, an extensive industry survey across Australia, a global literature review, and a comprehensive model-based scenario analysis of the various sources of sulfate."

Coagulants are added in the drinking water treatment process to remove turbidity from the water.

This video is not supported by your browser at this time.

UQ Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Peter Høj said the publishing of the team's paper in Science was recognition of the high-calibre of research that had been undertaken and underscored the importance of industry collaboration.

"Strong industry partnerships at both researcher and institution level allow us to better leverage resources and facilities and to ensure the benefits from excellent research flow to end users," Professor Høj said.

 "What Zhiguo and his team have achieved is a perfect example of a successful industry collaboration that has added the 'plus factor' to excellent research and delivered an innovative, cost-effective solution to a global problem.

"We call it the path from excellence to excellence-plus."

This video is not supported by your browser at this time.

Established ten years ago, Professor Yuan said the AWMC's sewer research team had received more than $10 million in funding from industry and research grants.

"A decade ago we established the 'Putting Science into Sewers' research program and, since then, we have delivered more than $400 million in documented savings to the Australian industry, with much more to come," he said.

"We are particularly pleased that we were able to simultaneously achieve both academic and impact in the same research program – something that we have always strived to achieve."

Explore further: Minorities pay more for water and sewer

More information: The paper, Reducing sewer corrosion through integrated urban water management', is online here.

Related Stories

Minorities pay more for water and sewer

November 29, 2011

Racial minorities pay systemically more for basic water and sewer services than white people, according to a study by Michigan State University researchers.

Bacteria involved in sewer pipe corrosion identified

October 23, 2012

Microbes corrode sewer pipes from the inside, a process that can lead to spills, bad odors, disease outbreaks, and the need for costly repairs. In a first step towards reducing the corrosion, researchers have identified the ...

New link could battle greenhouse gas emissions

July 30, 2013

The discovery of a new form of microbial life that can consume the potent greenhouse gas methane has earned University of Queensland (UQ) researchers a place in the prestigious journal Nature.

Turning mining wastewater into rainwater

June 12, 2014

A new cost-effective technology to treat mining wastewater and reduce sludge by up to 90 per cent has been used for the first time at a commercial mine. The technology, called Virtual Curtain, was used to remove metal contaminants ...

Recommended for you

A cataclysmic event of a certain age

July 27, 2015

At the end of the Pleistocene period, approximately 12,800 years ago—give or take a few centuries—a cosmic impact triggered an abrupt cooling episode that earth scientists refer to as the Younger Dryas.

Researchers find reasons behind increases in urban flooding

July 27, 2015

Scientists at the University of South Florida's College of Marine Science investigating the increasing risk of 'compound flooding' for major U.S. cities have found that flooding risk is greatest for cities along the Atlantic ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

ab3a
not rated yet Aug 15, 2014
Coagulants in the sewers? I'm not convinced that's a good thing. The last thing we need is to make sewage more gooey. It already slimes up the walls of the concrete pipes, only to get scoured when storms hit. This creates grease blobs the size of beach balls that clog up pumps.

And now we have someone who wants to add stuff that might make this problem bigger. I think I'll wait until the full results from trials are over before I look in to this.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.