Micro-Biological Attack On Deep Foundation Concrete

Moncarz, Piotr D.
Organization: Deep Foundations Institute
Pages: 6
Publication Date: Jan 1, 2002
As major urban areas begin to run out of "good-terrain" for their expansion, they begin to claim high water-table areas within or adjacent to water fronts or swamps. Similarly, major infrastructure projects encroach on or cross high organic content areas. The associated major structures often require deep foundations located in soils investigated through core samples removed at a discrete number of locations. The investigation is nearly always preoccupied with soil mechanical properties, sometimes with soil non-organic chemistry for concrete and metal corrosion, seldom, if ever, for organic-chemistry and bio-conditions as related to concrete longevity. Not surprisingly so, bio-corrosion of concrete is one of the least understood phenomena by practicing civil engineers. This paper shows how low-iron, organic-rich sediments may trigger sulfate degradation of concrete, even when standard pre-construction chemical analyses indicate only a moderate sulfate level. The discussion is illustrated with a case of a pile foundation in the United States driven into marine channel sediments and sediment-derived fill material. The concrete piles lost their structural integrity due to secondary ettringite formation and depletion of iron in the cement paste. Disintegration of concrete occurred only where it contacted superficial marine sediments and sediment-derived fill material. Concrete in direct contact with seawater or native sand and silt materials appeared to be sound. Sediments in contact with the degraded concrete were highly anoxic and had a history of sewage contamination, contained low concentrations of total iron (<2%), Fe(III) (<0.3%) and moderate levels of sulfate (1500ppm), and exhibited high bacterial activity. This environment resulted in the microbial dissolution of Fe(lll)-rich ferrite in hardened cement paste. Iron depletion in the cement paste had made the concrete vulnerable to degradation by sulfate, even at moderate levels of sulfate concentrations in the sediments.
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