Controlling Copper and PEX Drinking Water Pipeline Biofilms

Inkinen J, Jayaprakash B, Ahonen M, Pitkänen T, Mäkinen R, Pursiainen A, Santo Domingo JW, Salonen H, Elk M, Keinänen-Toivola MM. Bacterial community changes in copper and PEX drinking water pipeline biofilms under extra disinfection and magnetic water treatment. Journal of applied microbiology. 2017 Dec 9. doi: 10.1111/jam.13662.

AIMS: To study stability of biofilms and water quality in pilot scale drinking water copper and PEX pipes in changing conditions (extra disinfection, magnetic water treatment MWT).

METHODS AND RESULTS: Next-generation sequencing (NGS) of 16S ribosomal RNA genes (rDNA) to describe total bacterial community and ribosomal RNA (rRNA) to describe active bacterial members in addition to traditional microbiological methods were applied. Biofilms from control copper and PEX pipes shared same most abundant bacteria (Methylobacterium spp., Sphingomonas spp., Zymomonas spp.) and average species diversities (Shannon 3.8-4.2) in rDNA and rRNA libraries whereas few of the taxa differed by their abundance such as lower total Mycobacterium spp. occurrence in copper (<0.02%) to PEX (<0.2%) pipes. Extra disinfection (total chlorine increase from ca. 0.5 to 1 mg l-1 ) affected total and active population in biofilms seen as decrease of many bacterial species and diversity (Shannon 2.7, P < 0.01, rRNA) and increase of Sphingomonas spp. as compared to control samples. Further, extra disinfected copper and PEX samples formed separate clusters in unweighted non-metric multidimensional scaling plot (rRNA) similarly to MWT-treated biofilms of copper (but not PEX) pipes that instead showed higher species diversity (Shannon 4.8, P < 0.05 interaction).

CONCLUSIONS: Minor chlorine dose addition increased selection pressure and many species were sensitive to chlorination. Pipe material seemed to affect mycobacteria occurrence, and bacterial communities with MWT in copper but not in PEX pipes.

SIGNIFICANCE AND IMPACT OF THE STUDY: This study using rRNA showed that chlorination affects especially active fraction of bacterial communities. Copper and PEX differed by the occurrence of some bacterial members despite similar community profiles.

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