Steel-eating microbes threaten to devour Britain's ports
Sunday 05 December 1999
By Kath Gourlay and Mark Rowe
By Kath Gourlay and Mark Rowe
05 December 1999
It could, in the wrong hands, become the germ-warfare choice for the 21st century. To the delight of power-crazed dictators everywhere, scientists have found a steel-eating microbe munching its way through the engineering structures of up to 90 per cent of British ports and harbours.
Port authorities in the UK are on high alert after a study found that nine out of ten British ports are affected by the microbes, which attack vital structural support systems in salt water environments, corroding sheet piling and leaving girders looking as though they have been riddled with bullet holes.
A whole mixture of bugs are involved, interacting with one another to produce hydrogen sulphate gas that leaves ports smelling of rotten eggs. The condition, known as Accelerated Low Water Corrosion, is caused when surface bacteria which use oxygen establish a colony and then interact with other bacteria that do not need oxygen, creating a "bacterial soup" in which the microbes can flourish.
The study, by an engineering wing of the British Standards Institute, found that as the bacteria grows, it gathers in the nooks and crannies of underwater structures and produces an acid which eats into the metal, turning it bright orange.
One of the specialist engineers tackling the problem said he was "horrified" by what he had seen. "The bacteria can go through sheet piling like a knife through butter," said Craig Donald, director of CorrOcean, in Aberdeen.
A manager of a second firm of Scottish corrosion engineers admitted his firm has found what he describes as "strange and virulent beasties" in water as deep as 180 metres. Felixstowe has been particularly badly hit. British Steel is so concerned at the potential for damage it has experimented with 30 paint formulations in an attempt to find one that resists attacks on sheet piling.
Professor Frank Walsh, of Portsmouth University's applied electrochemistry group, warned that the bacteria worked with devastating speed. "It can cut the lifetime of a structure from 100 years to possibly 40," he said.
- 1 PlayStation and Xbox hacked by Lizard Squad
- 2 Katie Hopkins speaks out on childhood obesity: 'Parents of fat children should be prosecuted for child cruelty'
- 3 The Grace Dent Christmas Questionnaire
- 4 The 'Black Museum': After 150 years, public set to see exhibits from police’s grisly crime museum
- 5 Vagina canoe artist defends herself over ‘obscenity’ charges
PlayStation and Xbox hacked by Lizard Squad
Boxing Day snowfall set to push even more bargain-hunters online for sales
Katie Hopkins speaks out on childhood obesity: 'Parents of fat children should be prosecuted for child cruelty'
The 'Black Museum': After 150 years, public set to see exhibits from police’s grisly crime museum
Postcard from... The Vatican
British actor Idris Elba cannot star as James Bond because he is black, says shock jock Rush Limbaugh
Rozanne Duncan: Ukip expels councillor for 'jaw-dropping' comments made in BBC TV interview
Germany anti-Islam protests: 17,000 march on Dresden against 'Islamification of the West'
Ukip member gets into Christmas spirit with Union Flag plea to Santa 'for our country back'
BBC director Danny Cohen: Rising UK antisemitism makes me feel more uncomfortable than ever
Alex Salmond has 'broken his word to the Scottish people' says Scottish Lib Dem leader
£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...
£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...
£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...
£70000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketi...