Copper Tube Pitting in Santa Fe Municipal Water Caused by Microbial Induced Corrosion

Materials (Basel). 2014 Jun 5;7(6):4321-4334. doi: 10.3390/ma7064321.


Many copper water lines for municipal drinking water in Santa Fe, New Mexico USA, have developed pinhole leaks. The pitting matches the description of Type I pitting of copper, which has historically been attributed to water chemistry and to contaminants on the copper tubing surface. However, more recent studies attribute copper pitting to microbial induced corrosion (MIC). In order to test for microbes, the copper tubing was fixed in hexamethyldisilazane (HMDS), then the tops of the corrosion mounds were broken open, and the interior of the corrosion pits were examined with scanning electron microscopy (SEM). The analysis found that microbes resembling actinobacteria were deep inside the pits and wedged between the crystallographic planes of the corroded copper grains. The presence of actinobacteria confirms the possibility that the cause of this pitting corrosion was MIC. This observation provides better understanding and new methods for preventing the pitting of copper tubing in municipal water.

Keywords: MIC; SEM; biocorrosion; copper; microbes; microbial induced corrosion; microbiologically influenced corrosion; municipal water; pitting; tap water.

Publication types

  • Case Reports