hetertrophic plate count, biofilm, drinking water distribution system, corrosion inhibitors


In this study, the bacterial growth dynamics of 14 pilot drinking water distribution systems were studied in order to observe water quality changes due to corrosion inhibitor addition. Empirical models were developed to quantity the effect of inhibitor type and dose on bacterial growth (biofilm and bulk water). Water and pipe coupon samples were taken and examined during the experiments. The coupons were exposed to drinking water at approximately 20°C for at least 5 weeks to allow the formation of a measurable quasi- steady-state biofilm. Bulk water samples were taken every week. In this study, two simple but practical empirical models were created. Sensitivity analysis for the bulk HPC model (for all 14 of the PDSs) showed that maintaining a chloramine residual at 2.6 mg/L instead of 1.1 mg/L would decrease bulk HPC by anywhere from 0.5 to 0.9 log, which was greater than the increase in bulk HPC from inhibitor addition at 0.31 to 0.42 log for Si and P based inhibitors respectively. This means that maintaining higher residual levels can counteract the relatively modest increases due to inhibitors. BF HPC was affected by pipe material, effluent residual and temperature in addition to a small increase due to inhibitor addition. Biofilm density was most affected by material type, with polyvinyl chloride (PVC) biofilm density consistently much lower than other materials (0.66, 0.92, and 1.22 log lower than lined cast iron (LCI), unlined cast iron (UCI), and galvanized steel (G), respectively). Temperature had a significant effect on both biofilm and bulk HPC levels but it is not practical to alter temperature for public drinking water distribution systems so temperature is not a management tool like residual. This study evaluated the effects of four different corrosion inhibitors (i.e. based on either phosphate or silica) on drinking water distribution system biofilms and bulk water HPC levels. Four different pipe materials were used in the pilot scale experiments, polyvinyl chloride (PVC), lined cast iron (LCI), unlined cast iron (UCI), and galvanized steel (G). Three kinds of phosphate based and one silica based corrosion inhibitors were added at concentrations typically applied in a drinking water distribution system for corrosion control. The data showed that there was a statistically significant increase of 0.34 log in biofilm bacterial densities (measured as HPC) with the addition of any of the phosphate based inhibitors (ortho-phosphorus, blended ortho-poly-phosphate, and zinc ortho-phosphate). A silica based inhibitor resulted in an increase of 0.36 log. The biological data also showed that there was a statistically significant increase in bulk water bacterial densities (measured as heterotrophic plates count, HPC) with the addition of any of the four inhibitors. For bulk HPC this increase was relatively small, being 15.4% (0.42 log) when using phosphate based inhibitors, and 11.0% (0.31 log) for the silica based inhibitor. Experiments with PDS influent spiked with phosphate salts, phosphate based inhibitors, and the silicate inhibitor showed that the growth response of P17 and NOx in the AOC test was increased by addition of these inorganic compounds. For this source water and the PDSs there was more than one limiting nutrient. In addition to organic compounds phosphorus was identified as a nutrient stimulating growth, and there was also an unidentified nutrient in the silica based inhibitor. However since the percentage increases due to inhibitors were no greater than 15% it is unlikely that this change would be significant for the bulk water microbial quality. In addition it was shown that increasing the chloramines residual could offset any additional growth and that the inhibitors could help compliance with the lead and copper rule. However corrosion inhibitors might result in an increase in monitoring and maintenance requirements, particularly in dead ends, reaches with long HRTs, and possibly storage facilities. In addition it is unknown what the effect of corrosion inhibitors are on the growth of coliform bacteria and opportunistic pathogens relative to ordinary heterotrophs. A method was developed to monitor precision for heterotrophic plate count (HPC) using both blind duplicates and lab replicates as part of a project looking at pilot drinking water distribution systems. Precision control charts were used to monitor for changes in assay variability with time just as they are used for chemical assays. In adapting these control charts for the HPC assay, it was determined that only plate counts ≥ 30 cfu per plate could be used for Quality Assurance (QA) purposes. In addition, four dilutions were used for all known Quality Control (QC) samples to insure counts usable for QC purposes would be obtained. As a result there was a 50% increase in the required labor for a given number of samples when blind duplicates and lab replicates were run in parallel with the samples. For bulk water HPCs the distributions of the duplicate and replicate data were found to be significantly different and separate control charts were used. A probability based analysis for setting up the warning limit (WL) and control limit (CL) was compared with the method following National Institute of Standard and Technology (NIST) guidelines.


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Graduation Date





Randall, Andrew


Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


College of Engineering and Computer Science


Civil and Environmental Engineering

Degree Program

Environmental Engineering








Release Date

December 2007

Length of Campus-only Access


Access Status

Doctoral Dissertation (Open Access)