Do you just flush & forget?
Have you ever given any thought to the personal waste you produce each day? Where it goes and how it is transported? Under each city is a vast network of sewer systems. With pumping stations and pipes from 100 mm in diameter up to a size you could drive a bus down. The sewer network is an engineering marvel that functions via gravity; pump pressure, rate of flow and microbial interactions. Microbial interactions??? Yes, the micro-flora that come from us all continue to interact with the contents of the sewerage as it journeys from the point of input to the treatment plant.
Understanding community ecology and waste-water
Sewer pipes perform an essential role in that they contain and transport liquid waste away from where the waste is produced. This fact is probably not something that is of note today however, society suffered severe disease out brakes and ill health when waste was disposed into the nearest watercourse or thrown onto the street.
The functioning sewer is reliant on a number of factors one of those is the rate of flow. When concrete sewer pipes become corroded the rate of flow is impeded which results in blockages. Corrosion of the sewer pipes also affects the integrity of the pipe leading to micro-cracking and in some instances pipe collapse.
One of the major causes of concrete sewer pipe corrosion is the result of bacterial driven sulfur cycling known as biogenic corrosion. Understanding these microbial communities - how they function and interactions within them - can further our understanding of biogenic corrosion and how to curtail it.
Microbial Sulfur Cycling
Bacteria are fundamental to biogeochemical processes such as the cycling of carbon, nitrogen, sulfur and iron. The driving forces of evolution have lead to a diversity of strategies used by bacteria to gain and conserve energy through interacting with the elements present in the environment. To contribute to the understanding of the bacterial role in biogeochemical cycling - in particular sulfur cycling - the Franks lab employ Microbial Fuel Cell technology or electromicrobiology.
The black colour of the slower moving sewerage in indicative of the presence of reduced sulphur.