Effects of Chloramine and Coupon Material on Biofilm Abundance and Community Composition in Bench-Scale Simulated Water Distribution Systems and Comparison with Full-Scale Water Mains

Srijan Aggarwal, C. Kimloi Gomez-Smith, Youchul Jeon, Timothy M. Lapara, Michael B. Waak, Raymond M. Hozalski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


The vast majority of bacteria in drinking water distribution systems (DWDSs) reside in biofilms on the interior walls of water mains. Little is known about how water quality conditions affect water-main biofilms because of the inherent limitations in experimenting with drinking water supplies and accessing the water mains for sampling. Bench-scale reactors permit experimentation and ease of biofilm sampling, yet questions remain as to how well biofilms in laboratory reactors represent those on water mains. In this study, the effects of DWDS pipe materials and chloramine residual on biofilms were investigated by cultivating biofilms on cement, polyvinyl chloride, and high density polyethylene coupons in CDC reactors for up to 28 months in the presence of chloraminated or dechlorinated tap water. The bench-scale biofilm microbiomes were then compared with the microbiome on a water main from the full-scale system that supplied the water to the reactors. The presence of a chloramine residual (1.74 ± 0.21 mg/L) suppressed biofilm accumulation and selected for Mycobacterium-like and Sphingopyxis-like operational taxonomic units (OTUs) while the destruction of the chloramine residual resulted in a significant increase in biomass quantity and a shift toward a more diverse community dominated by Nitrospira-like OTUs, which, our results suggest, may be complete ammonia oxidizers (comammox). Coupon material, however, had a relatively minor effect on the abundance and community composition of the biofilm bacteria. Although biofilm communities from the chloraminated water reactor and the water mains shared some dominant populations (namely, Mycobacterium- and Nitrosomonas-like OTUs), the communities were significantly different. This manuscript provides novel insights into the effects of dechlorination and pipe material on biofilm community composition. Furthermore, to our knowledge, it is the first study to compare biofilm in a tap water-fed, bench-scale simulated distribution system to biofilm on water mains from the full-scale system supplying the tap water.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)13077-13088
Number of pages12
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number22
StatePublished - Nov 20 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by a grant from the National Center for Environmental Research (NCER) STAR Program, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Although the research described in the article has been funded wholly or in part by the U.S. EPA’s STAR program through grant number R834870, it has not been subjected to any EPA review and therefore does not necessarily reflect the views of the Agency, and no official endorsement should be inferred. In addition, S.A. acknowledges support from Alaska EPSCoR NSF award #OIA-1208927 and the State of Alaska. Authors also acknowledge support from the Minnesota Supercomputing Institute at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 American Chemical Society.


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