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Assessing the Impact of Microbially Influenced Corrosion on the Accelerated Loss of Port Transportation Infrastructure.

Shipping through the Duluth-Superior Harbor, the largest port in the Great Lakes, has a $200 million annual impact on Minnesota’s economy. Steel sheet piling used for docks, bridges, and bulkheads in the port is corroding at an accelerated rate not seen at other ports within the Great Lakes. Replacing a 20-kilometer stretch of these structures may cost more than $100 million if the cause and possible remedies for the corrosion cannot be identified. An expert panel convened in fall of 2004 to examine the corrosion issue recommended further analysis to check for microbially influenced corrosion in the harbor. Working with the Duluth Seaway Port Authority and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Randall E. Hicks (Department of Biology, University of Minnesota at Duluth) will attempt to confirm or eliminate the involvement of microbial consortia in the accelerated corrosion process taking place in the Duluth-Superior Harbor. The hypothesis that will guide the research is that species of ironoxidizing and sulfate-reducing bacteria are present in greater abundance at accelerated corrosion sites in the harbor than at nearby sites in the St. Louis River and Lake Superior that show little or no corrosion. Information about the structure, composition, and activity of microbial communities in the Duluth- Superior Harbor will not only help identify the cause of accelerated corrosion, but also will be useful for designing, testing, and implementing mitigation efforts to reduce the loss of the harbor’s transportation infrastructure.

Project Award Date: 
Community organization or agency: 
Duluth Seaway Port Authority and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Reports and related files
Sponsoring CURA Program: 
CURA Contact: 
Edward Goetz Director, CURA (612) 624-8737